It is coming up a lot these days in my conversations with women and it shatters my heart every time.
They share with me stories of hurt, sorrow, manipulation, and abuse at the actions of men. It will never become easier to hear. I will never grow numb to hearing them speak their brokenness out loud.
I am grateful for their willingness to share with me. I am thankful that they feel that my heart is a safe place to pour out their pain. I have been moved this week to share some of the thoughts I give to them right here...this is for any young woman I will never be able to speak to in person...this is for all the young women who need to know these truths.
Young women, I know that many of you - perhaps all of you - have been hurt by men in some way. For many of you, I know this hurt is very, very deep. While I cannot speak on behalf of men, I first want to tell you how sorry I am for what you have been through. I want you to know that no woman ever deserves to be hurt by a man, and there is nothing you have ever done to deserve the pain you have experienced. No action or inaction you have ever taken warrants the hurt that has been done to you. I am so, so sorry.
Kelly Clarkson's song Piece by Piece tells the story of the pain she suffered from being abandoned by her father. Later on in her life, in journeying with the man who would be her husband and seeing the deep and genuine goodness within him, she writes...He restored my faith that a man can be kind and a father could stay.
Sister, I want you to hear me when I say...The way men have treated you in the past is not the way every man will treat you throughout your life. There are kind men in the world. There are men in the world who are good.
It is easy in the midst of significant hurt to submit to the trap of believing that all men are unkind - that all men may be hurtful, manipulative, or abusive. I watch young women yield to this belief, and I know their stories - and I know why they do. I do not blame them for believing it. I do not blame them for allowing men to treat them poorly time after time - they have been conditioned to believe that this is all there is, that these are the only kind of men that exist. If you have given into this belief, I want you to know something...
There are men in the world who have goodness running through the core of who they are. There are men in the world who are gentle and honest. There are men in the world who are willing to sacrifice and love deeply. There are men in the world who choose to baptize their dying newborn twin daughters in a moment so powerful that when you read about it you can barely keep from crumbling.
I promise you this - the good men in the world may be difficult to find, but they are many.
I want you to know this, too, in your head and your heart - that not every man is out to hurt you, or manipulate you, or abuse you - because I see you running to things to heal this hurt. The world offers us many suggestions as to good band-aids for pain. Those band-aids, however, only cover up...they do not provide any real healing. The real Healer the world would never tell us about is Christ. He wants to place His healing hand on your broken heart, and make it whole again. He wants to restore your faith that men can be kind. He wants to restore your belief in your worth, your wholeness, your beauty, and all that you have to offer the world.
In the depths of brokenness, God brings magnificent restoration. Today I pray that if these truths speak to your life, if you have experienced this pain - that God would bring good men into your life - as he did for dear Kelly - to restore your faith that men can be kind. And good. And true.
I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them glass for sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13
To all the dads with daughters.
I write to you today because last night I watched Kelly Clarkson’s performance on American Idol of her song “Piece by Piece.” It struck me right through the heart, showing me evermore the profound role of a father in the life of his daughter.
The love a father pours into his daughter’s life is a factor that sets the tone for her walk into young womanhood. Kelly’s father was completely absent from her life - the song is about the love she found in her devoted and selfless husband and the way this love put the shattered pieces of her heart back together, after feeling abandoned and unwanted for so long. The song is astonishingly beautiful.
There are so few words to describe the innate and profound desire we have to be loved and accepted by our fathers - it a desire that must be experienced to be fully known. It is a desire that must be lived to be fully felt. A girl’s need for her father’s love runs deep in the fabric of her heart and soul. The inherent desires we feel as females - the desires to feel protected, treasured, loved, and worthy - you are the very first person we look to to fill these desires. You hold a grand responsibility...You draw the blueprint. You create the map.
The way you treat your daughter as she grows is the blueprint she will use to determine what she deserves in her early stages of life. You hold the power to show her the love she deserves. The love you give to her is the love she will grow up believing she should accept; it is the bar she will set. If the bar is set very high, she will accept and form relationships with men who treat her with dignity, value, and love you showed her was possible. If the bar is set very low it will take possibly years of restructuring her heart to help her see what she deserves and what kind of love is possible. Kelly Clarkson attributes her realization as to what she deserves to finding a man willing to shatter her low bar to help her believe in the kind of powerful, deep, and unwavering love she deserves. Fathers, you get to choose what the blueprint looks like - the one she will pull out of her back pocket every time she meets a man and gauges whether or not this is what she should accept. She will look at it again and again - and make choices based on it, again and again.
I want you to remember that every little outing with you lights up your daughter’s soul. Every time you tell her she is beautiful - inside and out - it gets etched into her young and growing heart. Every time you share a laugh, hold her hand, share a smile, every time you make it known to her by your presence that she is more important than work, than emails, than your phone, than your own friends - you shape her heart. You carve a space into her soul that helps her to always remember...I am important. I am worthy. I am loved by the first man I ever hoped would love me.
If you do not pour into her the fatherly love and attention her soul needs, it is likely she will go looking for it in other places. It seems obvious but in a world suffering from a "crisis of fatherhood” - it may not be so obvious to all. There is a reason that when so many girls sit down to have a heart-to-heart with me, they begin their sharing with “Well, first you should know - I have textbook daddy issues.” It is a term I hear more than you would expect - it is the term through which a young woman tells me in lesser words, “I did not get the love I needed from my father, so I have searched or am still searching for it elsewhere. It is part of the foundation of who I am.” My heart breaks every single time. No young girl’s heart should have to be restored and put back together throughout her life because of her father’s lack of love or presence - yet so many young women face this daunting and undeserved journey. It should not be so.
Fathers, I know you are busy, and overwhelmed, and stressed with the weight of the world and the weight of your family and the weight of your job on most days. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a father - complete with the many duties of caring and providing for others. I cannot imagine the reality of being surrounded by a family dependent on your work, that ebbs and flows with your successes and shortcomings, and looks to you for leadership. You have an enormous role to play, and a difficult role at that. But there will always be stress. Life’s curveballs will always be overwhelming. There may be days where your humanity screams at you to run from it all. But in the midst of all the commotion of life - your daughter needs you.
I have walked with too many young women whose fathers did not have time for them. To make up for this lost time, these dads would buy their daughters stuff to compensate. They would host parties at their home and supply all the alcohol with the intention of earning their daughter’s love and approval. They would buy cars, bags, vacations, and concert tickets to make up for the time they were not spending with their daughter. The girls liked the things, of course - but in reality all of it means nothing in light of a daughter’s real need. Presents will never, ever equate to presence. Your daughter does not need things - she needs you. Your work, your travel, the stresses of your job and life will never be more important than your daughter’s need of your love. Stuff will never fill up her heart. Your love will - time with you will - your belief in her always will.
I also know that sometimes you do not know what to say, especially as your daughter grows up. “I love you and I believe in you” resonate in a young girl’s heart beyond what you can fathom. She needs to hear it from you - to be loved and believed in by a father sets a girl free to be herself and believe in herself and her abilities. To know that my daddy believes in me is an invaluable truth that I always keep tucked away in my heart - there are days when it is the reason I press on. Tell your daughter you believe in her - often - and she will gently tuck it away and use it as a pillar to lean on throughout her life. And perhaps, as she grows, you will come to feel like you just do not understand her - do not worry, we as young women often do not understand ourselves. However, she is not looking to be understood - she is looking to be loved. Even on the hard days, when it seems you can do nothing right - she still needs to know you are there, loving her through the mess that is growing up sometimes. Keep on loving her. Keep on offering your presence. Keep on reminding her that you are one constant that she can count on and lean on, always.
Lastly, fathers, your daughter is not looking for you to be perfect - she is looking for you to try your very best. Your unwavering love is a gift to her that will stand the test of time. There is good reason I sob like a child every time I read the letter my father wrote me a few hours after I was born. It is my most prized possession. Every time I read it I know that from that moment I have always been wanted by my father. I have always been loved. I have always been cherished. I have always been worthy. I will never take that for granted because I know I am more than blessed.
Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express.
A few weeks ago at a conference, I was talking with a young woman in college who was telling me about her plans for the future. She expressed that she wants to be a lawyer, but that she doesn’t know how she could do ministry as a lawyer. She said that she thinks she might have to forego her dream in order to become a youth minister in order to do ministry in her life.
I was grateful to be able to provide her with an alternate view - the truth that ministry can be practiced in each and every profession she could ever imagine pursuing. I told her about our ever-growing need for steadfast and unwavering Catholic lawyers to fight for what is good and true in our system of law. It was obvious that she had never thought of it this way before…anyone in any profession can do incredible ministry.
In fact, one of the millions of divine synchronicities that occurred to bring about my existence in this world was the generosity of one amazing Catholic lawyer. His name was Marcel Viti.
My wonderful grandfather, Thomas F. Wilson, grew up in an orphanage. During the Depression, his father left the family and his mother could not afford to take care of her children alone. I cannot imagine the excruciatingly difficult decisions people had to make during this time in our country’s history. She decided it was necessary to send them to a Catholic orphanage in Philadelphia to be raised, educated, and cared for, so my grandfather was raised by nuns. He was sent through their high school, and upon his graduation day, he was given a one dollar bill and a rosary. It was all these nuns could send the young boys into the world with - education and faith.
My grandfather worked different trade jobs throughout his teenage years and into young adulthood. In his twenties, my great uncle George told my grandfather about a lawyer named Marcel Viti who was in need of a secretary in his office. My grandfather applied for the job, and became Marcel Viti’s secretary.
Marcel was an extremely influential lawyer and highly-regarded man throughout the world. As my grandfather continued to work in his law office, Marcel saw his dedication to working hard and learning. He made a proposition and offer to my grandfather - he offered to put him through law school if he continued to work in his office during the day. My grandfather accepted and went to the University of Pennsylvania, and after went on to attend night classes at the Temple University School of Law.
Marcel supported him financially through his journey to becoming a lawyer. But I can only imagine how badly many children raised in orphanages need someone to look them square in the eyes and say, “I believe in you.” Marcel Viti seized that role for my grandfather. He didn’t need to have “minister” in any of his titles to do powerful and life-altering ministry. He taught my grandfather one invaluable truth that changed the course of his entire life...You can do anything you set your mind to. No matter your past, no matter what you may think your limitations are, no matter what anyone has said you can or cannot do - you. can. do. anything.
My grandfather did go on to graduate and become a lawyer in Philadelphia. He also went on to meet my grandmother at a party with other lawyers - only God knows how they would have met if not for at this party and had he not gone to law school. He and my grandmother went on to get married and have 5 children - their first being my father.
I share this with you today because I want you to truly believe that ministry does not always look like “ministry.” There are too many people with a strict view of ministry as a job in a church or working within an arena that has the title of “ministry” on it - youth ministry, homeless ministry, mom’s ministry, campus ministry. The kindness and generosity of one person who practices everyday ministry can have a ripple effect that touches an incalculable amount of lives. And you can do that in any profession - lawyer, doctor, construction worker, barista, teacher, janitor - you name it - whatever profession it is - it is a space where ministry can happen. It is a space where you can show people in great need great love. Each and every profession can be utilized as an avenue for God to work in limitless ways.
So today I say thank you - to all Catholic lawyers who have dedicated themselves to doing ministry within their work, who help people in need with their intellect, experience, and influence at every opportunity they can. My life has been affected in powerful ways by your ministry.
And most especially, I thank Marcel Viti for responding to the call to take my grandfather under his wing and help set him free to become who God created him to be.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17
The more skin you show, the more powerful you are.
Our culture shouts it in our faces - in magazines, in movies, in commercials, on social media. The more risqué, the more revealing, the more you flaunt your female body - the more impact you have as a woman. Walk by a magazine stand and the covers are plastered with women showing their skin for all the world to see. Stop by the Instagrams of many young stars and you’d be hard pressed to find a girl covered up; you’ll find some of them in their profile pictures without a thread of anything on at all.
And while our culture is telling us this, as my heart breaks to see young women singing on stages and walking red carpets consistently wearing “outfits" that look more like bathing suits and lingerie…I am watching Adele.
The woman is showing us a great deal about the power of modesty and class.
Adele is a powerful woman. She has the extraordinary gifts of singing and the ability to compose her feelings about the ups and downs of life into beautiful songs. She can harness the words to describe the pain and the heartbreaks people experience in a very moving way. The woman’s musical ability has a stunning depth to it - and she lets this stunning depth speak for itself.
She puts on concerts, walks on red carpets, goes on television shows, and we always see her wearing something totally beautiful - and spectacularly modest. She isn’t standing on red carpets and doing concerts in low cut tops and tight gowns. She is consistently covered up - and consistently dazzling, hip, and modern.
Adele is showing you and I that as a woman, skin and power do not go hand-in-hand.
She is modest, she is classy, she is dignified…and she is a total superstar. People will shell out thousands of dollars to go to witness her share her gift live - her tour sold out almost as quickly as it was announced. People are not buying tickets to watch her dance around in little outfits and sing songs - people are paying to witness her command the attention of a stadium with who she is. Millions are clamoring to see this woman and watching her YouTube videos billions of times. Her interviews, her time on talk shows, her award show speeches show the world just how funny, light-hearted, confident, and engaging she is as a woman. Her personality shines.
Do you ever get caught up in asking yourself…Will people still notice me if I dress modestly? Will I just fade into the crowd? Will guys pay attention to me? Doesn’t wearing less make me appear more confident in my body?
The answer to your question in our culture is Adele. Watch her. Watch how she lets her gift and her personality speak for itself. See how she lets her talent say all that needs to be said. Her authenticity shines through her spirit, through every facet of her music and through every note that comes out of her mouth.
She is telling us by her example...You don’t need to flaunt your body to be powerful. You don’t need to wear tight, low-cut, cut-out, or short to be a woman who makes an impact. You can be a gorgeous, fun, talented, and awesome woman and tell the world around you at the same time…My body belongs to me.
Today. It is the one day of the year that - just by looking at you - someone can immediately know that you are Catholic.
There is no other day of the year that your appearance will show the world that you are. In your day to day life, people can come to know that you are a Christian by your living out of the Gospel, your kind words, and the charitable way in which you live - but nothing about our appearance, even on our most important Catholic feast days, tells people about the faith we live.
I was flying to Las Vegas for their Diocesan Youth Conference on Saturday, and I got to sit next to a lovely couple traveling to Florida. We got to talking, and I shared with them about my ministry - how I speak and sing for the Catholic Church and Catholic young people.
People are often surprised about what I do, but this woman was utterly flabbergasted. She could not believe that there are young people who still adhere to their Catholic faith, much less any people at all still in the Catholic churches! She had her children baptized over 30 years ago, and their family has not practiced their faith since. I have met many surprised people, but no one has ever been completely shocked.
There are many people in the world like this woman - those people who think the churches must be empty because Catholic tradition is too archaic for our contemporary world. And today is that day where we get to proclaim to the world…the Catholic Church is not dead.
And not only is it not dead - we each get to proclaim by our ashes that there is a life beyond this worldly one. We get to show the world that we have been marked by our Savior, chosen as His own even in the midst of our sin and brokenness. We get to outwardly show that we are sinners in search of something more than this world is offering to us on every step of our earthly journey.
Ash Wednesday is a day that can feel a bit uncomfortable - people will look at you funny as you go about your day - some people will wash off their ashes in order to feel more comfortable out in public. With no ashes on your head, there’s no possibility of someone telling you about the dirt on your face. Years ago when I was a server at a restaurant, I went to Mass in the morning and wore my ashes to work. As usual, people would let me know about it, and it gave me the opportunity to tell them…
“Oh, thanks. It’s not dirt. I’m actually Catholic and it is Ash Wednesday.”
And so I challenge you...do not wash off your ashes today. Wear them proudly as a sign that you belong to the living God. Lent is a tremendous opportunity to walk with the Lord on His journey toward Calvary, and today is a tremendous opportunity for us as Catholics young and old to declare to the world…
Yes, we are still here. And no, after 2000 years, we are still not going anywhere.
I have seen ten photographs from our wedding day, but I know this one will be one of my favorites. This picture surely shows the magic of a Christmastime wedding. We are dressed in the most carefully picked outfits of our lives. But for me it is far more than a beautiful picture.
They say a photograph is worth a thousand words…and for me, this photograph is worth both a thousand words and a thousand choices.
Authentic love requires great sacrifice. Authentic love requires incredible commitment. And love that lasts a lifetime requires that you choose the other over and over again…and that you choose God together over and over and over again.
And as we knelt here in this moment we brought all these times of choosing to the altar where Christ chose us...for Himself and for one another.
When I met Daniël in the beginning of 2013, dating someone who lived 6,000 miles away seemed like an impossibility. But after we first met, we each went home with this stirring on our hearts - this shifting of the plates in our souls that indicated God was up to something bigger than we could understand.
This photo represents our choice to listen to God’s prompting for me to return to Europe a few months after Daniël and I had met. It represents Daniël’s choice to pursue my heart. And it paints the picture of the years of choosing one another we had to do after that to arrive at those kneelers on the thirtieth of December.
When you are dating someone from across the other side of a planet, there are very, very hard days...seemingly impossible days when you must decide together…
Either we will continue to choose one another or we will choose to walk away.
This is the choosing which love requires. There were numerous times in our frail humanity that walking away would have been the easier choice. We were getting to know one another with a 9-hour time difference, we could not do anything fun together like go to the movies - all we had was talking. All we had was praying. All we had was choosing. And it was a very challenging road. There were some painful, hard, heart-wrenching days. We had to intentionally keep calling, to keep writing, to keep trying to make the other feel loved, to keep buying expensive plane tickets. When you spend two and a half months apart from the one you love - when you can’t spend time in person together week after week - you must choose to keep going until that next time you get to stand in the arrivals terminal and wait with an aching heart as you watch each set of feet come down the escalator, hoping to catch that first glimpse of the olive green Vans you know he travels in. You must choose to keep holding on to what Christ has called you to.
Because the thing is...love and marriage are not a fairy tale. Our culture sells us the cheap idea that love is all about how you feel about another person...when love, real love, in reality, is about a choice to love another person in good times and in bad times. You do not often choose because you feel like it - you choose because you are called...because the Lord of all says, “This is the one I created for you to keep choosing.”
This photograph represents our choosing of one another - and more importantly it captures our choosing of God together.
The only thing that made this moment possible was a central focus on our Creator, who created us for one another and created us to live to praise Him. Since the day we met, Daniël and I prayed together every single day. There was a great knowing in both of us from day one that if our love would ever endure, it would not be by either of our hands or efforts. We would never make it to a wedding day on our own. This would only work if the center of our love together was Christ - if we prayed for God’s will to be done daily - if we put our love of Jesus before our love of the other. Keeping our eyes fixed on God was the rock that sustained our love. We chose the Gospel about the man who built his house on rock to be proclaimed at our wedding for this very reason.
Our relationship, our marriage, will always be about humbly bringing glory to the God who brought us together. This love is all about the King. Our love is all about the Eucharist that kept us connected to one another in two separate worlds day after day, week after week. Authentic love is derived from the creator of such love.
It is a pretty photo, indeed, but this photo is about more than pretty... it is all about the gritty choosing love demands. It is all about the fierce commitment true love requires of us - the commitment to one another, and to a life in God’s great hands. And as we knelt here after we stated our vows...moments after we promised to never, ever give up on one another...we sang to the God we promised to keep carrying one another toward. From that day, onward, forever.
The ABCs of being a young Catholic woman...I have been imagining the best way to compile some of my main teaching points for young women into a list. These are some of the highlights from my talks that I felt I needed to put into a small list to encourage, inspire, and help young women on their journey of faith.
Always be kind to other women. There is not one woman in the world who has ever been made happier by being unkind or speaking unkind words about another woman to her face or behind her back. Uplift other women and you will be uplifted yourself.
Be brave. There is great bravery required in being a counter-cultural woman in 2016. It takes courage to uphold a high set of values, share your faith, and to go against the flow. Don't be afraid to be an example of a strong, faithful, loving, self-respecting woman - you can be a role model for the woman around you, and it is no secret that we need great female role models in a world with very few of them.
Choose chastity. The only man who deserves to have you give your body to him is the man who stands at the end of the aisle and professes his vows to you. Our culture is trying with all its' might to teach us that our bodies are not sacred, but because God dwells within each of us, we are indeed sacred places. The right man will respect your choosing of chastity. Walk away from the men who don't.
Depend on the Lord in everything. Psalm 37:5 reads "Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you." He promises to never let us go and the Lord does not make promises He cannot keep. He may make us wait to teach us patience, allow suffering in our lives to help us grow in greater faith and perseverance, or speak to us in ways we don't expect, but He is the One in this life we know we can always trust.
Everything is temporary except for eternal life. Make your life decisions with the permanence of eternity in mind. Life goes by in a blink, and we each get the opportunity to make every day count in light of eternity with Christ.
Find friends who support the core of who you are. Life is far too short to waste time with friends who help you stray from your values, friends who put you down, or in surface friendships with people who don't care very much about your well-being. You are never stuck in any certain group of friends. Be purposeful and intentional in who you choose to surround yourself with. Your friends will impact your life in very negative or very positive ways.
Go to Mass. It is easy to get off track when busy with schoolwork, college activities, work, etc. There is not anything more important that you could do with your week other than partake in the Eucharist. The body and blood of our Savior is the food that sustains...what could possibly be more important than receiving it?
Have fun. Don't take things too seriously. Nobody wants to be around the girl who is complaining or bringing everyone down all the time! Be cheerful, positive, and in good spirits and you will find life much more enjoyable.
Imagine where you want to go in your life and put in the hard work to get there. Realizing your dreams takes a lot of effort and energy. Defy our generation's abysmal lack of drive and ambition and work hard - you will find yourself in incredible places doing incredible things.
Joy is something we must keep choosing. It is not often the case that we will "feel" happy in life. Don't mull around wishing you felt happier...joy and happiness come when we really choose to see the good that surrounds us in our life and when we take the time to really see God's glory in every day.
Keep swimming. Dory said it best. We will all make mistakes, especially as we navigate being a young woman growing into adulthood. Some mistakes will be small and some may be huge. The important part of life's journey is to get up and keep going, no matter how many times you fall, and to remember - God's love and mercy never has and never will run out.
Love yourself. It is hard to love others if you don't know how to first love yourself, flaws and all. Learning to love ourselves as women can be a long and difficult journey, but it is a journey Christ wants to accompany us on to bring us to see ourselves the way He sees us. He wants to walk with you on the journey - open your heart to allow Him to do just that.
Make time for your parents or your primary caretaker. These people have poured out more for you in life than you will ever know. Spending time with them, loving them, and being present to them are a huge gift but small way to thank them for all they have done for you. Never undervalue the power of it.
Nobody's opinion of you matters except for God's. People will say all different kinds of things about you throughout your life - nice things, mean things, beautiful things, untrue things. People will decide what they think about you, and the truth of God is the only truth that will stand among all the noise - you are loved, worthy, and set apart for His great purpose for your life. He delights in who you are and created you to take part in His divine plan for the world. Do not let what anyone else says or thinks convince you otherwise.
Open your mind to new things. Go on that retreat, that adventure, or take that photography class you've been thinking about. Life becomes fulfilling when we open our hearts to new possibilities - new adventures and openness to the new make life more dynamic and exciting.
Pick clothes that reflect your dignity and your value as a woman. You have the opportunity to tell the world by the way you dress that you are so much more than an object to be looked at but a mind and heart to be known.
Quickness to forgive will benefit your life in unimaginable ways. Holding on to grudges and hurts weighs us down and makes it challenging to live a life of total freedom and joy. When you struggle to forgive, ask for God's help - He was indeed the one who forgave even while He was on the cross.
Reach out to those in need. There is a great deal of fulfillment that comes in life when we step outside of thinking about ourselves and realize the needs of the people around us. Those people might be in your family, your group of friends, in your community, or in your city - they will take on all different forms. It is in learning to give and in giving of ourselves that we truly receive.
Speak Up. For yourself and for others. Learn to use your voice because what you have to say is important. Do not ever let anyone put you down - stand up for yourself in every moment of your life. Use your voice to speak for the voiceless - the unborn, the abandoned, the poor. Spread the message of the Gospel with your actions and words. Your voice is a powerful tool that can be used to change your community and the world.
Take time to pray every day. Each day is a gift; each day is an opportunity to connect and walk with our Creator, and to keep God at the center of our lives. If we are putting God in 2nd and 3rd place on our priorities list, things have fallen out of place. Praying daily helps keep God at the center and fills our lives with love, patience, charity, and selflessness.
Use your gifts to build the Kingdom on Earth. If you don't know what your gifts are, ask God to help you see what they are. He gives us each gifts that we can contribute to the Body of Christ - some of those could be listening, hospitality, teaching, cooking, or music - the list is very long and every person is born with different gifts. When we offer these gifts back to God, in the same way that he multiplied the small offering from the boy of 5 loves and 2 fish, he will do great things.
Vanity is overtaking our selfie-saturated culture. Be wary of our culture's focus on narcissism, self-love, and egotism. This attitude is a poison that can creep slowly into your heart. Life is about more than likes on Instagram or any regard on social media. Struggling with your desire of online praise too much? Give up social media for a week and notice how much happier you feel.
When a guy sends you an inappropriate message, stop talking to him. You don't owe him anything - a response, a photo, or a conversation. Demand respect from men and don't spend any time around men who refuse to respect you.
eXercise regularly, and exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. Exercise is so good for women's bodies and the power of it cannot be underestimated. Exercise does not have to be going to the gym every day - get outside and go on walks, lift some weights, take a dance class. Getting moving and working up a sweat regularly is a wonderful habit to have and can make a powerful difference in your life.
You have control over the decisions in your life. You have the power to say yes and no. No one can make decisions for you and we each must live in the consequences of our decisions - both our positive ones and our negative ones. Be aware of that in each day of your life and carve your life's decisions with the loving direction from God the Father.
Zeal. Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause. Have zeal in your heart for what you are passionate about. I have come to find that passionate people are the people enjoying life the most. They are doing things they love, promoting things they love, or working toward a goal they believe in with all their heart. They are living out their purpose in the world. It's hard to find your purpose if you aren't passionate about your existence in God's masterpiece of creation.
Never forget that - you play a role in God's masterpiece of creation. What truth will ever be more astounding?
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"Our first date went well, but he's not that strong in His faith, and…" She paused, almost apologetically. I completed her sentence. "And you desire to date a man who loves Jesus like you do."
"Well, yeah…Yes. Yes, I do." Her apology turned to confidence in speaking the desire of her heart. I experience this scenario often.
At the age of eighteen, attending Daily Mass became an integral part of my life. I found fulfillment and deep personal peace through the beauty of adoration. I was sold out for big worship and looking for big ways to build the Kingdom. Following Jesus Christ was the single most important aspect of my existence.
During this time and into my twenties, I knew one thing I wanted above all if I was going to be dating. If I was going to date, I wanted to be with a man who really, really loved Jesus…even more than I did, and even more than he loved me.
I knew my own heart, and knew that I needed to date a man who could lead me. There was no question about it, I did not want to be spiritually leading a relationship.
I desired a Christ-centered relationship and I wanted to date a man who shared in my love for all these things that were so deeply integrated into my daily life. It was extremely important to me that if I was going to be in a relationship, I wanted it to be one with a man who had a profound sense of Catholic spirituality. I wanted to date a man who loved Jesus more than I did because I wanted to learn and be challenged to grow.
I held no judgment against men who did not share in my faith or my love for Jesus, I just knew that they were not the man for me. And sisters, there will never be anything wrong with knowing what you want and what you need.
I speak with too many women who feel judged for upholding their standards…frustrated by having to explain it to friends or family…many of them share about the questions and the pressure from other people…Well, you could be missing out. No one will ever meet your standards. Why don't you just give him a chance? You're being too picky.
Women, there is no place for apologizing for what you desire in a relationship. There is no place for having to explain it to anyone, either.
We each get the individual responsibility of creating our own standards (and by standards, I am talking about realistic ones here - standards like a man who is virtuous, honest, selfless, unafraid to roll up his sleeves and serve, etc. - not height, hair color, or his ability to sing and play the guitar). It is the responsibility of every woman to be in tune with God and with what is most important to her in a man. There is no need for anyone to understand the standards you have set out except for you. Nobody else can make that call. Some women know that they yearn for a boyfriend or husband to be their spiritual leader. Some women are completely open to dating a man who has no faith and inviting him to be a part of her faith. There is no "better" scenario; we each get to choose. If a man of great faith is what you know you desire, do not apologize for it. Whatever you decide is the bar he must reach, do not go on dating men who sit below it. Do set the bar high - remember, you deserve the best. Be patient until you find the man who shares in what you know you need, and do not settle for less when he seems hard to find. It can be a challenging lesson in patience and trust in God's providence…but it is a beautifully worthwhile endeavor.
I did find that man who could lead me. I had to travel half a world away, but God did bring us together in His own timing. And as we walked together in our dating relationship, one night I whispered to Him, "I love Jesus. And I love Him more than I love you." He whispered back, "I know. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Take heart, sisters. Have patience. Keep that bar up there because though they may seem few and far between, there are incredible men in this world. And as for the apologizing...This is a journey that will always be between you and our God who provides according to His perfect time and His perfect will.
It is challenging to figure out where to pick back up.
I disappeared a little while ago in December, as we began to pick up speed leading up to our wedding day. There are many things to process about the past year, and the first thing I am attempting to process is the generosity of the people around me. In the past few months, the love poured out upon us has been breathtaking, the support has been overwhelming, and the grace has been surreal.
It is truly unbelievable to think of all the love that I have felt throughout all of 2015 - I have been left without words, utterly speechless.
There will never be enough words to thank so many people for all that they did to support Daniël and I in 2015. My parents walked with me every step of the way and gave selflessly and supportively at every turn. I will never have the proper words to express my love and gratitude for them. My sisters, brother, and brother-in-law keep me laughing and dancing the whole way through this life. In the months leading up to the wedding, I received messages of love from dozens and dozens of people - offers from selfless souls wanting to help poured in constantly and I was humbled - the amount of people who wrote or texted saying they were praying for us was beyond compare.
About a week before the wedding, I received a package from a parish in Florida. The youth minister and many of the girls had written me little letters of love, and they sent them along with a beautiful medal of the Holy Family. When I opened this package in the midst of a last-minute odds-and-ends frenzy, my gratitude overflowed into many tears. This was the pinnacle of all the love I felt - I have never been so aware that I was breathing, living, and walking in the love and prayers of others. There are no words to describe how humbling it is. I tied the medal these young women gave me into my bouquet and carried it down the aisle as a prayer for young women everywhere. Thank you to this youth minister and the young women who wrote to me. What a gift.
In 2015, I was blessed by the support of many priests as we walked through engagement - and we were blessed by one priest in particular. Daniël and I were prepared for our marriage by Fr. Dan Beeman, a priest from Norfolk, Virginia. Fr. Dan flew across America to celebrate our wedding - a huge gift in and of itself. Not only did he celebrate our wedding he valiantly led our 2-day extravaganza to be something very holy and very sacred. The day before our wedding, he celebrated a private Mass for Daniël and I - our last Mass as single people. He guided everyone through the rehearsal, and celebrated our wedding Mass, which was an absolute explosion of joy. The love and generosity Fr. Dan showed us over the past few months - in the midst of an extremely busy schedule running a parish - has left us in absolute awe.
The amount of people who attended our wedding Mass was beyond my wildest dreams. When we opened our Mass to all, I did not know who would come. I saw people from all walks of my life - many teens from my years as a campus minister, former colleagues, friends in ministry, my elementary school teacher. We had friends drive across the country to be a part of our day - truly, truly humbling. Thank you to all who came to worship with us, and for praising your hearts out with us. We are grateful to have spent the most important Mass of our lives with you.
Daniël and I are embarking on our new normal, and I have quite a bit to say about all that has transpired in the past few months. I look forward to sharing my heart with you, and I am thrilled about all that 2016 will hold and sharing in even more of God's love and grace in this one wild and precious life.
It is a difficult thing to speak of hurt. It is a challenging thing to witness to brokenness. In my own life I have found the importance of putting our hurt into words - speaking of pain is what builds the bridge from one person to another to say- you are not alone.
And so I open my heart today because I see more and more the pain people have experienced in following Christ and being hurt by His followers. I know that pain well and sometimes I think it gets swept away - under the rug, far away, deep into the recesses our hearts.
Have you been hurt in ministry? In church? By people who declare out loud that they love Jesus Christ?
If yes, then you and I, we have rowed in the same boat, oars moving right along together. You are not at all alone. We have been hurt by people sitting in our congregations, by people in leadership positions, by clergy, by religious, by people well-known and liked by entire communities of people. It is highly likely that if you have ever belonged to a church community, it is something you have experienced.
I was once in a worship band that held an entire meeting to discuss their opinions about me. I was not invited to defend myself. I carried a high school campus ministry program by myself, while teaching classes, while running retreats and loving endlessly on 450 teenage girls while one of my greatest friends battled cancer - and was called unworthy to address my students at their final Mass because some disagreed with the way I did ministry. I witnessed nuns treat a dying woman with such little care for her heart I still cannot speak of it out loud to this day. This is the short list. There can be some unimaginable pain in ministry.
Sometimes people have motivation to hurt and sometimes they do it without such intention...but a wise person once shared one line that has stuck with me forever...Unintentional pain is still pain. Unintentional hurt still hurts.
It steals the joy right out from under you and takes the wind clear out of your sails. It can bring you to a screeching halt... why do I work in ministry or volunteer my time if this is really what it can be? How can I follow this Jesus who has followers who approach me with disrespect, who can say terrible things about me, who can be incredibly critical of the attempts I make at building the Kingdom here on earth? Why do I stay in the Church if it has people like this?
It is a challenging thing to approach - a painful thing to speak about, because it is often hard to describe what it is like. It is difficult for people to share their wounds for fear of sounding uncharitable or whiny, but this hurt is real and if left untreated, can impact one's life and faith for far too long. In my own life, at times it has felt like a small sting - other times in has felt like burns - not burns on the skin but burns on the heart. You know, the old scene when someone leaves the iron on a shirt too long, and it leaves that distinct black burn mark? It's like that. And sometimes it feels like it takes an eternity to carefully scrape off. These hurts can only be healed when they are given to God - to allow God to place His perfect healing power over all these places of discouragement and ache.
I have met some who wonder that last question...why do I stay in the Church if it can be so painful?
It can feel like a valid question in the midst of deep sorrow, but there is one truth that will remain a constant in my life. I refuse to leave the Church even when Christ's followers treat me horribly. Why? Because I refuse to let human folly drive me away from the Eucharist.
There is an important distinction that I have had to continue to make - I hear many people say that they were hurt by the Church - when it is not the Church that inflicts pain. It is not the Catholic Church who hurts us but the imperfect people in it - the ones sitting on the altar, in the pews, in the administration building at the school, in the parish center. We are all imperfect in many ways, and in the same way that I do not blame the mother with the screaming child at the grocery store for her child's behavior - I will not blame my God for the behavior of His children. I refuse to let humans derail my love for the King, my passion for young people and the Church, and His plan for the entirety of my life. People can say mean things about me, call me incapable, unintentionally or intentionally hurt me - I will not walk away from the Bread of Life.
If you are currently navigating this kind of hurt - I want to apologize to you today. I am sorry. I want you to know that God wants only to pour out love into your aching heart. I am always comforted when I take one step back and look above all the followers and look at the One we follow. He has never been and never will be a hypocrite. He is accepting, kind, forgiving, merciful, and loving - He is the one this faith is about and He is the one who knows His Church is made up of messy, imperfect people and He is the one who says to all of us who have been hurt,
I love you. Keep. serving. anyway.
It takes a conscious choosing to refuse to become bitter - to hold up a stiff arm to cynicism as it tries to wrestle you down - to remember...there are a thousand more dedicated, selfless, holy people for every one person who has ever hurt me. But it is a worthwhile and life-giving choosing, and I choose it while I say out loud...All of my life, in every season, You are still God. I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship.
There are millions of absolutely exquisite humans working to build the Kingdom - let us live and remember them. Let us live to love the ones who hurt us, to pray for those we find it difficult to pray for, and to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
It is the week to give thanks.
This week we celebrate gratitude and love and happiness and our countless blessings. We give glory to God for all good things and rejoice over good food, shared memories, songs, and time with family. This week is a sacred time in our country - spirits are high and everyone has already been wishing one another a Happy Thanksgiving - the lady on the phone from the electric company wished one for me and I wished one to the COX man who set up our Internet. Americans love this beautiful week.
If we are not careful, however, this sacred time can be slowly infiltrated by that little voice that starts to sneak in to our lives...
That voice that tries to make you look at the things you don't have rather than what you do have.
Nobody has a perfect family but that voice could try to convince you that yours is the worst and you would be happier in a different one in the thick of family drama that seems to come to a boil this week. You do not need a relationship or a spouse to be happy, but that voice is going to try to remind you that you are alone and that loneliness is equal to misery. You do not have as many fun weekend events to attend as your friends you see on social media, and that voice will try to convince you that you are unwanted and excluded. Material things do not fulfill us but that voice is going to tell you - you do not have close to enough. You need more.
Why else would people trample each other to the point of death on Black Friday to buy things?
This is the week where we each get to take control in shutting that voice up in our hearts and minds - we get the decision to beat the enemy and let gratitude rule our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is the week to look at our imperfect families and be grateful to have a family - parents, cousins, crazy uncles, and all. It is the week to focus on the big blessings we take for granted - running water, food on the table, cars to drive, friends to go around. It is the week to truly believe that - relationship during the Christmas season or not - life is still good, full, promising, and beautiful - and that no matter what events you are or are not invited to - that you are still loved by many.
It is the week to truly remember - I have enough things - how can I give more love?
We get the choice...the choice to change our perspective to say not, "I don't have..." but to say, think, and believe...
I have more than enough. Thanks be to God.
Everyone says it is important to have family dinners for your children and for the well-being of your family.
It makes children happier, they say. It makes children smarter, they say.
It gives them better self-esteem and confidence, it keeps them out of trouble, it makes for an overall healthier family.
There are a myriad of reasons and I subscribe to them all.
Sharing dinner at an 8-foot long handcrafted oak table every night made me all of those things. But I have watched and seen the way dozens of families operate and I have come to know that a family dinner table is gravity.
Gravity is the force pulling together all matter, and this shared table does that and so much more. It creates the balance of a home. It keeps all within a home grounded. It pulls everyone together to the exact same center.
My mother ordered this handcrafted table many years ago. This old table has seen many plates of food and heard lots of laughter. It has surely seen hundreds of different guests by now...aunts, uncles, priests, old friends, new friends, elementary school friends, college friends, and anyone and everyone who ever needed a loving home for Thanksgiving. It has endured drumming and singing and crying but most importantly has offered each of us a moment every single day of our childhood to answer the question in front of the other five people God gave us to love life with...
"My precious jewel, how was your day?"
When children feel heard, they remain centered. When they feel loved, they remain grounded. The love within a home sustains children. Love felt at a dinner table gives children and families life.
It is at this oak table where I have felt heard and loved for my entire life. It remains the central place of sharing and loving for our family to this day. As a 26-year-old woman my heart overflows at sitting at this table, noticing that long after dinner has passed, and plated have been cleaned...
We still sit and laugh, talk, and share in life together.
Throughout this time of engagement, I have looked at a number of bridal magazines. Each one has ideas about flowers, etiquette, DJs, and every decoration under the sun. One thing I have surely read about when breaking open a cover is dozens of ideas of how to look amazing on the wedding day. Whether they are harping on how to look best in the style of gown I chose, reminding me of the fact that all eyes will be on me, or reminding me that these pictures will last a lifetime…they are all packed with headlines about how I can buy into the idea that losing weight will make me the most beautiful bride I can be…
"How to Take Bridal Fitness Breaks (Without Feeling Guilty)," "5 Ways to Diet and Lose Weight Before the Wedding," "Arm-Sculpting Workouts for Strapless Gowns," "Bridal Bootcamp," "Wedding Slimdown," the list is never-ending.
It takes a conscious decision in the midst of the headlines and bridal culture to refuse to buy into the idea that my appearance is the most important part of my wedding day. I have watched many episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" because it is a fun show to watch happy women celebrate a fun day in their lives. Many women go in with an idea of what they want to look like, an idea of what kind of gown they want or will love. Some of them know the exact gown they want based on a picture. I was not one of those brides. You see, I had quite a bit of trouble picking a wedding gown. I tried on far too many and just was not falling in love with any of them, and neither were my mom or sisters. I got discouraged, thinking that maybe I would never find a dress that I really loved. Throughout the process, I came to realize that I had never thought about my appearance for my wedding because it comes so far behind my excitement about marrying Daniel. It comes so far behind thinking about the beautiful journey that will come after the day. It comes so far behind the joy that overflows thinking about seeing all my most wonderful friends in one church!
I want to feel beautiful on my wedding day, as every bride does. I hope that my groom thinks I look stunning, as every bride does. But do I need to lose five or ten pounds to look more beautiful than I would without doing so? No. Do I need to count my calories until the day for Daniel to love me more as I walk down the aisle? No. Do I need to have more sculpted arms to feel great about people looking at my arms at many points throughout the day? No. Does any of this matter in light of the Sacrament we will enter into on that day?
My wedding day will never be about my weight, it will always be about my willingness to sacrifice.
For the next number of weeks I will keep exercising every day as I always have, eating well, feeling strong, and loving the body God gave me. It is surely not "perfect" but depriving myself of trying all the cheeses at my bridal shower is not going to make it "perfect." A wedding day is not about the perfect body, it is about commitment. It is about firm decisions to love, no matter what. It is about selflessness and the commencement of a spectacular, challenging, and altogether wild journey.
This is the reality that I have bought into, and in light of this I plan to look like me on my wedding day. It will be the me that all my guests know and love. It will be the me that Daniel loves through and through. And I cannot wait to see his smiling face when the glass doors open and the journey begins.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31
I recently heard about Glamour Magazine including Cecile Richards and Bruce Caitlyn Jenner in their selection for "Woman of the Year."
I am not surprised, disappointed, or even dismayed.
I know the kinds of women our culture puts on pedestals. I know well what our culture thinks is "brave" and "honorable." I am well-versed in the fact that our culture thinks a woman who has proven to be a liar and fraud with no care for the unborn is worthy of the title woman of the year. I am not surprised that our culture is telling women that a man who decided to medically become a woman is more deserving of such a title than any other woman living in 2015.
I also understand that titles are unimportant, and that what Glamour magazine says does not matter. But what does matter is being inspired by the kinds of women who are truly living honor and bravery in their lives, the women who deserve all the laud and awards, but who would never wish for it or look for it a day in their lives.
They are my women of the year.
My woman of the year was born without a 4th chamber in her heart. She has been through countless surgeries and unimaginable physical suffering, and endures it all with the utmost grace and radiance in her heart. You will never see her out in public without a smile on her face, a laugh on her lips, and genuine questions about how your life is going. She is thoughtful, loving, and joyful. She was excelling greatly in her career path but is currently unable to work because of her health, which would be tremendously frustrating for anyone. I have never once heard her complain or look for sympathy for this incredible struggle. She continually lives the life and circumstances she has been given with dignity and beauty. She is my woman of the year.
My woman of the year just heroically defeated uterine cancer. She works extremely hard at her job and has selflessly cared for her mother in her own home for many years. She is an extremely loving, faithful, patient, and kind friend to all. She is a great listener, a generous giver, always putting the needs of others before her own. I have never once heard her grumble about her trials, about all that others expect of her, or how deeply unfair life can be sometimes. She accepts all that God wills with a heart of prayer, open to all that God wants and does not want, all that God gives and does not give, and in doing so teaches others to do the same. She is my woman of the year.
My woman of the year is a mother to 3 girls who saw a great longing and need for spiritual connection among women, so she prayerfully and proactively created a community that is thriving and growing by the day. She truly lives out the words of St. Joan of Arc, "Act, and God will act." She has selflessly built an infrastructure that has cultivated incredible vulnerability, friendships, and sisterhood for women all across the world. She quietly carries heavy crosses in her life and through it all serves her family humbly and generously while running her beautiful community and working a demanding job. She is one of the brightest spirits you could ever meet. She is my woman of the year.
My woman of the year runs a youth ministry program at a parish in Texas. She gives more than anyone sees to make incredible youth ministry happen for young people. Much of her work goes unrecognized, and her humility is stunningly magnificent. She does not ever show a need to receive accolades or recognition. She spends her summers bringing teens to nearly every event imaginable, spending long nights on buses, late nights in hotels, and early exhausted mornings taking care of God's young people and making sure they encounter Him in a powerful way during their teenage years. She longs for God to bring her a spouse but I have never once heard her complain about her state in life as she accepts all as grace. She works and lives with a beautiful peace and generosity in her heart, and is a beautiful example of holiness and virtue. She is my woman of the year.
My women of the year know how to glorify rather than to look for glory.
These women who inspire us in our lives know how to dig in deep when the going gets rough, they know how to serve until it hurts and then keep serving. These are the women who get grit, who understand grace, and who do not cease opening their generous hands and hearts to put complaints aside and others before themselves.
Today and every day I thank God for the women around us who radiate love and who live beautifully inspiring lives of quiet suffering and sacrifice.
Who is your woman of the year?
"We are the women who want the thing God wants more than we are afraid of it, the women who know when the love of Christ motivates, the more fearless of everything we become, the women who know real joy is not found in having the best of everything but in trusting that God’s making the best of everything.
We are the women who make our lives about the cause of Christ, not the applause of men, live to express the Gospel, not to impress the Jones’, live not to make our absence felt, but to make Christ’s presence known."
Have you heard them yet? The geese are flying South for the winter.
I hear them when I am walking the dog, or sitting at the table eating dinner, and when I am lying in bed with the windows open.
I hear them honking - their form of communication - a communication which keeps them engaged in incredible teamwork.
Every time I hear them I remember how much they teach us about what it means to live in community and choose our friends wisely.
Geese choose friends who are going in the same direction. They would not get to their winter destination otherwise. As you have likely seen, they fly in a V formation...when flying in this formation, each goose flaps its wings and creates an uplift for the goose behind it. They fly as a team, taking turns as the leader, trading positions and helping geese who may be tired or sick. Collectively, the geese are able to travel 70% farther than if they were to travel the distance alone.
Traveling through life as a geese does is imperative in the life of a Christian.
We all get tired at different points in our life journey and in our faith journey. Living a life of faith at every age can be very challenging...we will all lose sight of our destination at some point, give into weariness in some way, and have feelings of hopelessness at different stages. If we are with people who get the journey, who understand where we are going, who care for our well-being, and who share our core values...we will find the road much more bearable and much easier to navigate. When we are immersed in community and we stumble, grow exhausted, or face immense struggles, those people sharing in our voyage step in to fly in front of us. They step in to ease our tiredness, our pain, or our sickness by their love, their thoughtfulness, and their prayers. They create an uplift for us because they know the journey of life is challenging but it is community that keeps us going. I will not soon forget the way my family was uplifted by the wings of others in our community when my mother became sick with cancer - the love, the prayers, the cards - there was a smiling face at the door every single night with a meal for our family. Community can create light in the most difficult of life's seasons and is essential to walking through life.
Many young people share with me that they feel trapped in a group of friends who do not share their same values or common goals, or stuck with friends who are unwilling to help them to be the best person they can be. I always remind them...a group of friends is not some tattoo you cannot remove. You can change the friends you choose to travel with when you realize they do not share your values, your goals, or your direction. The geese teach us this simple equation...spend your time and energy with people who do not share your vision of who you want to be and it will surely take you much longer to get there.
So I ask you today...what does your community look like? If you find yourself with friends who do not share a common goal, who are not going the same direction as you...it will be worthwhile to spend the energy to find friends who will get you the 70% extra distance that comes with this kind of community. You can find yourself uplifted by others in your life, and you can be that person who gives uplift to someone struggling along the journey.
May we all channel the brilliant and innate sense a goose has - to choose friends who will help us reach the goal of Heaven and to be a friend ready to uplift those who we are together with in community - for the rest of our lives.
I get a flash of a second with young women.
Thirty to forty-five minutes seems like a trivial moment in the grand scheme of their entire lives, especially when I know well what I am up against.
I get a fleeting minute to tell the ones who do not believe it that they are valuable, worthy, loved, and beautiful.
I get a split second to share truths with them that some have never heard in their lives...
You are important. You matter. There is a great purpose for your life. Your DNA was painted by the hand of the God of the universe. You are forgivable, lovable, beautiful, and worthy. Your body is a sacred place.
And my heart continues to give into heaviness because I watch this world which surrounds young women closely and I know I get a flash of a second and Miley Cyrus gets hours and hours with them. Interview after topless interview, Instagram photo after inappropriate song.
I get this fleeting moment and Demi Lovato gets weeks. They hear from these women day after day - women who post photos of their naked bodies as objects on Instagram to be liked, praised, or ridiculed. The young women I speak to are taught on a daily basis that nothing is sacred - sex is a game - our bodies are objects for all to see.
The half hour God allows anyone to share a message of true identity and hope with them can feel like nothing.
It challenges every bone in my body and feels like just a fraction of what could make a difference until I get that one message, that one email that reminds me of what I know well...the reality of what one half hour can do for the life of anyone who walks the earth...
She tells me, this young woman, that in the 30 minutes that God's truth of her identity fell upon her ears...her life was changed profoundly. She vulnerably opens her heart to tell me this half hour was the first time she has ever heard that she matters. It was the first day in a very long time she did not go home and harm herself because of this profound revelation that resonated in her heart. She tells me that this 30 minutes saved her life.
And God whispers it to me again and again...
Do not ever underestimate that flash of a second.
Because that flash of a second is a flash of light, and in the darkness of the world, the light is different. The light is attractive. The light holds all power.
They will remember that moment of light.
My gratitude overflows at the gift it is to walk alongside many others who see the value of that 30 minutes of sharing God with one teen - how amidst the deafening clamor of the world, opening the door to God for them to see this flash of light can change the entire course of their days.
We get many of these short moments with many people who walk through our lives. One second of showing God's love to someone can do monumental things...are you seizing that moment or letting it pass by? May every person we have an encounter with go away believing that there is still great love, peace, and charity still left in this world.
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness." - Blessed Mother Teresa
Things still feel trivial these days in light of the heartbreak happening in our world.
I struggle to put words on paper about anything inspiring because there are people fleeing for their lives at this. very. second. I cannot ignore the kind of suffering happening on Earth and the impact it has on my heart. We comfortably post all weekend about college football, about laying in the pool on Labor Day, taking pictures of our coffees and other picturesque scenes…and these souls a world over are fighting to stay alive, to protect their children, to get to any place of safety, while we struggle to get out of bed on a Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. I try to make sense of it all - but none of it seems to make any sense.
We watch these refugees on video, on the news, desperately fleeing to safety, and so many of the comfortable hearts in our country are unmoved. And I sit here, wondering…are we unmoved because it looks like another scene in a movie? We watch them both on screens. What is the difference in our minds between a script and reality? Is there one? Have we eliminated the difference between a movie and reality for people? Do people see so much horrifying violence that kills people in movies, that when it happens in real life it matters just as much as it does in a made-up story? Is the desensitization of our society that far-reaching?
Two journalists get killed on live television and our society has already forgotten. We hashtag about it for a day then move on with our lives. People are shot to death at a peaceful Bible study and it is now old news. We just continue on with our lives, because what is there for us to do? Last week, there was a shooting at Sacramento City College. One person was killed and a few injured while they were attending school. I would venture to say that few people know about this incident because it was not widely reported. Are shootings so common at schools, at workplaces, at churches, that they do not make the news anymore? How can that be?
Obama gave one million dollars in grants to Planned Parenthood last week, and I am even more speechless than I was the time Congress did not defund Planned Parenthood. If it came to light that people were killing thousands of puppies every day, the outrage would be monstrous beyond measure. Nighttime TV hosts would be crying at the plight of the puppies, and it would be headline news. Where am I supposed to place the anger I feel in my heart over millions' of people's unabashed desire defend abortion, to defend their "right" to make decisions that do not have any consequences? To add to this, the outrage in light of the Center for Medical Progress videos has quickly subsided. People are not sharing the horrifying videos like they did by the 4th and 5th one. There are errands to get to, friends to meet up with, bills to pay. What can we do anyway? I cannot sit Obama and Congress down and force them to see babies killed by an organization that got a one million dollar grant last week. My heart continues to break and I continue to pray and help in my small way, but is it enough?
In all my confusion, heartbreak, and anger, I know that we must look at the light that is within all of this...the light that is the people helping the refugees, the light that is people joining in community to mourn with one another, the light that is the pro-life workers, politicians, women working at pregnancy centers, and so many more who are dedicating time, energy, and effort to make a change in the midst of this brokenness. There are people doing good in the mess - people who look at the darkness and walk right toward it with their light to help, to heal, and to give. There is hope in it all, hope that is not as often reported as the tragedy is, but there is hope and mercy in the center of suffering...that hope and mercy walked 2000 years ago to help us make sense of it all.
Keep your hearts up, friends, and remember that death lost its power long ago. May we consciously rejoice in the reality of the Resurrection, knowing as the days go on that this place is not our Home.
Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.
I am part of the 3%.
I do not know who The Knot surveyed to get this data, or how big their test pool was, but this is the information they have printed in their big bridal magazine for this season. According to The Knot's poll, 3% of people choose not to live together before marriage. Yes, I am one of them.
Common societal thought tells me that it is ridiculous to marry someone you have not lived with. Society tells me, "Save money. Really get to really know each other. Learn if you are really compatible. Do not marry someone if you don't know the reality of how they live at home."
I will be the first to admit my full cognizance that I do not know what marriage will be like. I do not know how it will look as Daniël and I learn to merge our lifestyles with one another, I do not know the little or big annoyances that will come up with the different ways we live, and I do not know how our cultural differences will come into play when we begin to occupy the same space.
I do know, however, that my life will look completely different on December 31st. It will have turned upside down and inside out for many reasons. I will be a wife. I will have a husband. And New Year's Eve is the first day in my life I will have a boy as a roommate. This boy and I, we will share a home.
I have always known that I do not want the day after my wedding to be the same old story. I do not want to go back to our home, sharing the kitchen like we did the week before, sleeping in the same room like we did a month before. We will certainly be very changed souls because God will have given us the gift of a stunningly beautiful Sacrament. We will have entered into a covenant with God to love one another for all the days of our lives. That will certainly change the way we live, move, and have our being. And I have a great desire for everything in our lives to reflect the incredible change that will happen the moment each of us finishes the phrase…"I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."
On December 31st Daniël and I will share one space because we have become one person. I had a student tell me once, "Miss Wilson, my mom told me that getting married without living together is like buying a car you have never taken for a test-drive." Thankfully, Daniël is not a Toyota and our differing living habits will not dissuade me from making this "purchase." Would we both be saving money if we lived in the same apartment? Sure. Would it be easier to come home on December 31st knowing what drives us crazy about the way the other lives? Quite possibly, yes. But would the difficulty of merging the way I live with the way Daniël lives supersede my love for him and make me regret my choice to marry him? No.
Surely, it is a monumental change that we will experience after marriage…we will go from living apart to living together, we will go from having our own rooms to sharing a room and a bed with another person, we will go from seeing each other every two months to seeing each other many moments of every day. The change is far greater than I can currently comprehend. But in the glorious newness of it all, it will be a thrill for Daniël to come home after work and to hang out together and for neither of us to have to leave. It will be a joy to wake up in the middle of the night and be able to look at the man who pledged his love and life to me. It will be a completely new thing to share a closet, to swipe my debit card that holds our money together, and to cook way more food than I am used to cooking for the man with the fastest metabolism of all time. It will be a whole new life. And it will be new, challenging, fun, exciting, and difficult all at once.
I am grateful that no one ever told me that chastity would be convenient. Nobody ever told me that following the precepts of God and His plans for marriage would be a walk in the park. It is surely counter-cultural, and sometimes in my humanity it can feel annoying, expensive, and difficult.
But will it be worthwhile when he carries me over the threshold into our little home in Orange County and everything in our lives has been transformed all at once?