27 January 2016

4 books that will make you a better human.

The power of written word amazes me sometimes. It can be empowering or challenging. Books can change how we see ourselves and our worldview.

Have you ever finished a book and thought "If everyone I knew read this, the world would be a better place?" 

These 4 books in my own life have done just that, helped stretch me as a person and open my horizons...and also happen to ones I think could benefit others too ;)

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be & Embrace Who You Are 
Dr. Brene Brown has coined a phrase "wholehearted living." Summary? Be who God made you to be and be that perfectly well. The premise is how to cultivate practices and a mindset to engage with people/the world from a place of self-acceptance and worthiness. One of my favorite books of hers so far! 

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life 
This perhaps is one of the most life-changing books I have ever read. I enjoyed it so much that's part of the reason I am in the process of working on an e-book about boundaries. It is something that will challenge you on a personal level, and also help you evaluate/learn how to implement these tools in all types of relationships, especially the crazy-making ones. 

The Way of Serenity: Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer
I got this book for Christmas a year ago. Since then I have read it probably 3 times. Over the last few years, I have grown to love and strive live out the words of the serenity prayer. Think of this book boundaries on a spiritual, faith level. Also very good!
Who the heck doesn't need more practice in accepting the things we cannot change?! I do. 

The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions
This book made challenged me and think  a lot. While I don't consider myself pro- death penalty, it really made me think about why and how the justice system as we know it today exists. It reaffirmed my understanding of the importance of this pro-life issue, and a good place to start in having that conversation well. 

What would you add to this list? I do love a good book recommendation:)

post signature

25 January 2016

Podcast Loving + My First Guest Appearance!!

I have become a bit of a podcast listening nut over the last few months. I love listening and subscribing so much, I am realizing I need to set a daily limit each day...not to mention the constant listening is taking away from quiet in the car ;) Following different podcasts is a great way to learn, grow, and grow in creativity!

Some of my new recent favorites include:
Relevant: Similar to the faith based/culture magazine, Relevant. SO funny, informative, and great interviews with all types of interesting Christian men and women.

Caritas: Elise and Brigid are two young Catholic women talking on all things prayer, life, creativity, and have some great episodes! My favorite ones so far were with Jenna Guitar from Blessed is She and Audrey Assad.

Mud Stories: Jacque is Christian woman who offers a platform to talk/discuss with all types of people the mud they face in their own lives, and encouragement to know you're never alone. Lots of great stories and I always leave feeling inspired. My favorite episodes were with Jess Connolly from Naptime Diaries and Emily Freeman.

I am SO EXCITED to have recently been a guest on the Caritas Podcast with Elise and Brigid. We chatted all things self-care, exercise, how to have good relationship with food, and our love for all things Ingatian spirituality and Fr. James Martin, SJ. Check out the episode here.

Initially Brigid contacted me regarding a post I had written on why I owe my body an apology. I had so much fun with these lovely gals, and I really encourage you to check out their podcast!
It is relevant, inspiring, and empowering to (I think) any Christian woman no matter her state or stage in life.

Download on iTunes and leave them a review, I know it would totally make their day:) 
Do you listen or subscribe to podcasts? What are some of your favorites? I am always on the look-out for good recommendations! :)

post signature

22 January 2016

Easy Ways to Cut Down on Gas!

The constant up and down of gas prices for a time were one of the most frustrating factors when I started to live life on a budget. But since then, I have managed to learn a few, simple tricks to help make my dollars stretch longer when it comes to fill the ol' car.

1. Search around for cheap gas with GasBuddy
Type in your zip code or city and find the cheapest gasoline prices around. Also comes in a phone app. 

2. Properly Inflated Tires
This trick is a new one to me. Did you know when your tires are not inflated properly or out of alignment, you actually make the engine work harder? I know right?! #themoreyouknow
Only recently I have learned the right way to fill my tires and check the air pressure, but when my mechanic told me this info, it about blew my socks off!

3. Strategically Plan out Errands 
This one can be tricky and perhaps more time consuming. Plan out the shortest route for errands and work to get them down in the shortest driving route possible. This can take a little time, but if you need to really pinch pennies, it can help even make a small difference.

4. Pay for Gas in Cash (whenever possible)
I have noticed for a good, long while that cash prices for gasoline are significantly cheaper (at least where I live) than credit card prices. A good 10 cents is enough of a reason to continue to stick with paying for gas with cash...not to mention the whole accountability thing too ;)

Did I leave something out? What would you add?
How do you look for new ways to cut down on gasoline? 

post signature

18 January 2016

Hopes and Dreams for 2016

When my Dad is preaching in church (he is a deacon) he always weaves in interesting life stories or quotes from different people into his homilies. One of my favorites was when he quoted the Rolling Stones, "you can't always get what you want but if you try sometime you find you get what you need."

As I start 2016, I find myself mulling over those song lyrics. Life is turning in a different direction I never saw coming, but in spite it all there is much to be excited, hopeful, and grateful for in it all.

-I am really, really excited to do two more half marathons.

-I am excited (and nervous) to find my own apartment and make it into a home.

-I am writing an e-book right now on boundaries and looking forward to offering it to subscribers and readers of my blog.

-Connected to the above, I excited to connect more with other women online and nurture friendships through community and blogging. I want to make an effort to reach to readers of my blog and see what I can offer to them.

-While its in the early stages, I am looking forward to taking girl's trip to NYC with just my Mom and sister. Word on the street, Momsy is paying for flight and airfare ;)

-I am hopeful for continued healing and growth as I move through the divorce and annulment process

-I am excited to travel to Poland for World Youth Day this summer

-I am hopeful and plan to pay off $6,000 of school loans to help set me up better financially on my own.

-I am hopeful I can learn to feel confidant and comfortable while starting to do life on my own, that God+me is enough.always.

It's gonna be a different kind of year in a lot of ways, but if I choose to do so, I can still find grace in it all along the way.

When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow. (Shauna Niequist).

Photo Credit- Lara Casey 

Where are you dreaming big, beautiful things? What is filling your heart with hope and excitement? 

What are your hopes and dreams for 2016?

post signature

14 January 2016

When Worship doesn't feel "Worshipful"

Sometimes in life, you just don't "feel" like worshipping God, singing His praises, or whateves you call it.

Last night was a night like that for me.

I had a meeting at church. When I heard we were starting it with a bit of worship, I inwardly groaned. I just wasn't feeling it. I had a rough day and praising God was the last thing I had on my mind.

At some point in the second song, I decided to really worship (even though my heart felt contrary feelings). I forced myself to get out of my big feelings/emotions and focus on what is eternal, lasting. Sometimes in life we have to do things we don't want, but ultimately know are good for us. Deep down, though I know when I say "Jesus, I Trust in You" (even if I struggle with meaning it) or make myself count all the gifts in my life, there is transformative power in those actions.

It's like when I talk with young people who struggle with prayer or get frustrated when they don't "hear" God in their spiritual life. You have to keep going, not give up. If we lived our entire lives by how we felt, we'd be an emotional hot mess. 

Last night I didn't feel worshipful, and I told God that. I brought it before Him, and acknowledged I would rather duke it out with Him in the parking lot or kick a hole in some dry wall complete with a few good swear words. 

But I pushed through. I worshiped and praised even though it was the furthest thing I wanted to do. And I am glad I did.

Sometimes the things in life we would rather not do are some of the greatest opportunities to grow. And although it was just a few praise/worship songs, it reminded me once more how life is more than just feeling good

Life doesn't always feel like a Chris Tomlin song. And that's okay.

post signature

11 January 2016

The Un-Official 8th Sacrament...

The Sacrament of the Present Moment.

As a Catholic, my spiritual mindset has been shaped by a sacramental way of looking at the world. Sacraments are simple things or actions that reveal God's presence and work in the world; they are tangible reminders of God's work in our lives. Sacraments are ways God draws near and gives us grace. Bread, wine, oil, water, words, and the laying on of hands are the simple, yet powerful ways God reveals Himself, reminds us we are never alone.

A sacramental worldview is one of the things I have love most about being a Catholic Christian. It is a constant reminder that all the moments and actions of my daily life can be (are) sacred. All of it: the mundane, bitter, and sweet moments are all places where I can experience the presence of God, where I can find Him in the midst of daily living. 

I have found this concept so be so meaningful in my life from reading this book. 
Yes God can be found in ancient cathedrals and conferences with hundreds of people, but He is also hidden, wrapped up in the small little moments and actions of our daily life. God is constantly speaking to us every day, but often times we are not listening. 

Even more in my life right now, I find myself constantly looking for where I can discover and find God in the present moment: Where is He hiding in the mundane or painful? Where can I find Him and draw near to his presence? How can I experience His presence as I go about my day?
More than any other time in my life, I am relying on the Lord in new, radical ways. I am seeing (perhaps really for the first time ever) how MUCH I need His grace, how I can do truly nothing without Him.

photo source LifeTeen
Living the Christian life is like being a detective. We are searching for clues, looking for answers in this life. We are all searching for meaning and lasting happiness (whether or not you're a believer). We take notes, listen, learn, ask questions, and follow the clues that ultimately point us to true peace and lasting joy. And like a detective, when the answer is found there is such excitement and peace. But it is a different type of peace.

The final, most important clue I think is learning to live, savor, and find joy in the sacrament of the present moment. If we can find peace in the beautifully mundane, even bitter or painful moments, that  will be one of the richest, most important lessons we could ever learn while on earth. And it is a lesson I am so grateful to be learning right now in my own life.

So no, I am not suggesting a re-ordering of the sacramental perspective, but I do think the idea of the present moment being sacred, sacramental is something we all can learn and reap benefits from.

May all the moments of your daily life be ways to experience the sacred presence of a mysterious, good God...

How do you find and experience God in the present moments of your own life? 
Do you see normal daily living as something sacred that God can use to change you?

post signature

07 January 2016

The Hardest Peace

This past summer, I read one of the most profound books of my life by a woman who was living (and has since died) from a terminal cancer diagnosis. In it, Kara writes and shares on how she expected to find grace and goodness in the midst of life's hard.

For Kara, the hardest peace was to accept the reality of her disease and knowing it would take her far too soon from the people she loved most. Her story has spoken the power of faith into so many lives, both in her living and dying. The hardest situations in life are the ones we never dreamed of happening to us. 

It it is with great sadness, I am in the process of getting a divorce from my husband. We have spent much time, money, and energy both individually and collectively in working to heal. I have been praying and begging the Lord for over a year to make clear what I am to do. And after much personal prayer, discernment, and wise counsel, I am convicted there is not anything else left to do. It is sad and painful but there is peace in the decision; the hardest peace I have ever experienced in my life.

In this space, I certainly have never wanted to paint this image that we had it "all together." Because we never did, and really none of us have it all together. I never was going to over share the realities of what was going on in our marriage, it never felt right for a variety reasons. While never going into the details, I have reflected on how perfectly imperfect our marriage has been or how brokenness in relationships can be a messy, painful thing to work through. 

I was debating if I should stop blogging here or create a completely new site because of this new sad, unexpected life change.  But then I realized, I am not going to hide away in shame or fear of what other people think of me or would say. That is totally fear based, and I refuse to live my life in that manner. Even if I am not married, there are still many invaluable lessons I have learned in and through our marriage that I am grateful for. God will use all this in His plan and purpose for my life. It will not define me, but will only become a chapter in the story of my life. 

One thing God has taught me through this whole process is that I truly cannot judge any other person in this world. With the situation I find myself in, I could easily take it personally and feel hurt if people were to offer "free advice" or make assumptions without having walked in my shoes. Humility is a funny thing. God kicks me off my high horse to remind to not judge others but only love them. Love them as He would, with crazy amounts of grace, not judgement or harshness. All that is going on in my life now is such a tangible reminder to look at others with love and grace first, never in judgement.

I am not going to use this space as sounding board to work through the process of divorce and annulment, but I will write on it from time to time here. I have loved writing since I was a little girl, and still want to cultivate this little space on the Internet. But it will not become solely a place for me to vent or deal with life. I want to still offer and share things that would be of value and inspiration to others.

I am thinking of maybe writing a series in the future on divorce and/or annulment in the Catholic Church, as those are things that can be very mis-understood today. In the coming months, as everything becomes finalized (and as I work through the annulment process) I just ask for your prayers: that God would use this difficult, painful time to bring about greater healing and wholeness in both the lives of myself and my husband.

"In the most painful fear and hurts of our lives, will God be good? Is Jesus really good in the awful of cancer, fire, heartbreak, and devastation? In the face of all that is broken, is God good?

"In every season of our lives, we meet the edges of life we never expected. The unexpected pain of life often leaves us with the only choice of how we will endure it. We all have unexpected hard, but how do we face it? Trust God that the story is good."
-Kara Tippetts, 'The Hardest Peace'

Yes God is good even in the pain of failed marriages.
I am trusting God that the story He is writing through all of this will be good. 

Thank you for your prayers.

post signature

04 January 2016

Easy Ways to Kick-off Your 2016 Budget!

One regret of my life is that I had to learn the hard way when it came to budgeting, saving money, and learning how to be responsible with money. Never again will I ever take out a loan to travel to Europe! #alwaysabadidea

While it will take awhile still to become debt free, having these tools in my tool box has really changed my perspective on how I look at money and plan to use it.

Maybe you're a penny pincher or maybe you're Suzy Spender, but here are a few easy ways to help you get re-focused and committed to having a strong financial game plan this new year!

1. Create and Stick to a Budget
Well duh. Yes starting with the most obvious because sometimes its easy to miss the obvious things. I know for a-good-long-while I lived paycheck to paycheck and hated saving.

But telling your money where to go and then making it happen is a huge game changer! Once the cash out of my gas envelope is gone its gone. There re lots of tools to help keep and track your budget. Some folks use Excel. 

I really like the FREE app Dave Ramsey and his team put together called EveryDollar. It allows you to track, name every single dollar, and create a budget. I was surprised how user friendly it is and the phone app is a really handy way to always have an accurate idea of where my money is going.

2. Look for Big Ways to Save on Groceries
I have always like going grocery shopping, but now that I am working to become debt free and I look at it with such a different perspective.
If you have an Aldi's near you, check it out! SO worth it! Cheaper prices all around and they are offering a growing number of organic or gluten-free products!

Look for creative ways to stretch that dollar! Maybe try baking homemade bread or your family or consider using eco friendly re-usable cleaning cloths to save on things like cleaning supplies or Clorox wipes.
This podcast episode and this one have been really helpful for me too! Oh and this one too ;)

3. Stay Motivate by Learning Constantly
Okay so you you want to be financially responsible or maybe finally become debt free? Well how are you going to stay motivated while walking through Target or when the desire for ordering in Chinese kicks in?

Have podcasts, books, and blog you enjoy that you can come back for extra support and that kick in the pants when you need it. Here are some of my current favorites:

4. Have a Way to Stay Accountable
Who is going to help hold you accountable?
Your spouse or friend? Or maybe someone in Facebook group? One I find helpful is called Budget Dorks on Facebook.

Whomever it is, make sure you have someone who can help hold you accountable...because let's face it, it can be really easy to buy our own BS.

How do you stay committed to your budget? What works best for you staying focused on being financially responsible?
Are you working to become debt free?

post signature

01 January 2016

One Little Word for 2016

Can I tell you something?

Growing up I HATED gardening. 

I have awful memories of my Mom taking us kids strawberry picking and I would whine and just lay in the dirt begging to go back to the car because I was "tired." And God forbid if we had a Saturday family work day outside! I'd hide in the bathroom with a boat load of books to read while sitting in the bathtub. I know, pathetic.

So when the word CULTIVATE kept coming up as a word for the year I honestly had to laugh a bit.

Cultivate. You know what definitions for that word include??
  • to prepare and work on
  • improve the growth of (a plant, crop)
  • to improve and prepare (land), as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops
  • to loosen or dig soil around (growing plants)
  • to grow or tend (a plant or crop)
And if I really stop to think about it, cultivate is a good place to start in 2016.

2016 is going to be a year of cultivation, a year of growth.

As a little kid, I hated planting and getting my hands dirty. But now I am going to dig in and get messy with my life. There is soil that needs to be loosened up, weeds in my heart/mind that need to be picked. I am going to let God do some intense soul work in me this year; pull up the weeds and tend the seedlings that need to grow strong and tall.

I am going to get messy with some of the messy things in life. The messy work of cultivating plants or crops leads to something stronger and richer. I am going to nurture the seedlings God has started sprouting in my life, and work to weed out the things that don't have a place in my life.

Whatever your word for 2016 is, give yourself permission to get messy. Embrace the beautiful imperfections and shows yourself lots of grace along the way.

Do you choose a word to guide and inspire you in the coming year? Share in the comments:)

Happy 2016, friends! :)

post signature
09 10