28 December 2019

From Open to Fearless

2019 was my year to be Open.

It looks like 2020 is the year to be Fearless.

One of the traditions I have enjoyed over the last few years is choosing a word. I have shared here and there on past words. What this last year has shown me is sometimes the word you start with takes on a whole different meaning than what you originally thought.

I was heading into 2019 with the word, Open. 

I thought it held a particular meaning for me. At the time, I was seriously dating a man (with whom I thought I would eventually marry). I thought this word meant to be open to ways my life would look different than how I always imagined. Specifically, with the serious possibility of becoming a stepmom to his three children.

But early into 2019, I no longer felt peace and ended that relationship. It was sad, messy, and confusing. I was really surprised by my choice, but in the end, knew it was the right decision for my life.

So what did it look like now, to be open?

For me, it looked like giving myself space and time to process and grieve that relationship. I looked at the gifts, blessings, and also the things I did not like or would do differently. In time, I began to date again.

I knew I wanted to date a bit differently this time around. 


I showed up as my authentic, Patty self and went on lots of dates.

I learned to trust myself even more, kindly turn men down, and walk away with ardent certainty on what are the most important things I am looking for in a serious relationship, and someday in a marriage.

I got a lot of practice in healthy dating principles; what it means to lean back into my own life and not try to make something happen with a man. 

As the year progressed, what I thought my word for the year meant developed and changed.

I started out with a certain idea of what being open would look like for me.

As life unfolded, so did a deeper meaning of my word.

So that brings me to the final weeks of 2019 . . .

One night, I was tooling around late on my laptop and at random, decided to pick a word for 2020.

I did not have high hopes for anything terribly profound and was more expecting to get something random like the word toast (that did happen one year!).

I was surprised to see the word fearless staring back at me.

I would use a wide variety of words to describe myself, but fearless is not one I think I would ever pick.

I stared at the computer screen. 

Over the next few days, I sat with the word more. I asked Jesus what He thought about this word, what He had to say to me about it.
For about a week or so, I kept coming back to fearless.

It rings true with me. It sits well in my soul, so 2020 will be my year of fearless.

I will choose to be fearless. I do not know how it will play out or develop over the next months, but I want to be more fearless in all areas of my life, especially when it comes to seeking the will of God in all the spaces of my heart.

Do you pick a Word for the Year? 

Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you or try on several different options until you find the right fit. You can always use Jennifer Fulwiler's Word of the Year Generator!

What is a Word that will guide this new decade of life for you?

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21 December 2019

What I Needed to Unlearn About Catholic Dating

It needs to be said.

There are some weird, unhealthy, and toxic attitudes out and about in the world about Catholic dating.

Dating, especially online, already comes with unique challenges. But throwing in the factor of being a Catholic woman (or man) brings its own set of unique experiences.

There is one particular memory of I have when I was in my mid twenties, that for me, captures much of what was unhealthy that I absorbed in terms of dating and Catholic culture around that.

I am sitting in my mom's gray Sable in the parking lot of the first parish I worked at. 

I was listening to a CD and the talk was being given by the wife of a well-know Catholic writer, professor, and speaker.

Her talk was about dating, courting, and marriage. The point I most remember was something to the effect of: After you date a man for about six months, you should have a pretty good sense if you want to pursue marriage. If that is the case, he would begin to court you, and eventually in the near future you would get engaged and then get married.

(Before going any further, I am not saying people who date and marry quickly are doing it wrong or you cannot find lasting love that way.)

While maybe this was not the point the speaker was trying to make, the point is that is how I as a naive, very inexperienced woman (in relation to men) received and internalized what was said.

I have wanted to be a wife and a mom from the time I was a very little girl. 

But as I look back on my own pscyho-sexual development and lack of experience with men before marriage (not referring to sex), I realized there were a lot of unhealthy perspectives and beliefs I gravitated to as a young woman.

I dated two men before I married. 

One was for eight months and the other just a handful. 
In dating my former husband, there were a lot of red flags I missed in his words and actions. And honestly, while we never had sex before marriage we were not the most chaste while together. In many ways, I think those choices further clouded my better judgment in my choice of a spouse. 

I came into marriage at 26 very naive about my own body as a woman and my sexuality. 

I was insecure, codependent, wanted to be loved, and thought the "right" Catholic man could fulfill in me in all the ways that I did not love or value about myself.

I had no awareness of things like the importance of consent, abuse, or manipulation when it came to a sexual relationship between spouses. 

I had no sense of my own voice to express what I liked, did not like, or was uncomfortable with when it came to our sexual relationship.

Why share all of this?

Because our sexual templates as men and women are formed and shaped by our attitudes and experiences. These were some of things that play a piece in my story.

Now I realize we bring all of this stuff with us into dating and how we navigate that.

It is now at the ripe age of 34 I am able to see the negative, even toxic, messaging I absorbed as Gospel truth when it came to dating, sexuality, and marriage.

What were some of the unhealthy things I have had to unlearn about dating?

  • Date with the intent to marry. All I am trying to say is saying that to an 18 or 22 year old is confusing, not helpful, and I would say spiritually abusive.
  • The whole concept of courting.
  • Needing a spouse to complete me. This has done more harm to me in more ways than I can verbalize.
  • Finding the "perfect Catholic guy" will make everything picture perfect. (False).
  • The idolization of marriage.
  • The idolization of virginity and lack of compassionate care for those who had sex before marriage.
  • The idea that men and women cannot be friends.
  • Marriage is not the end-all, be-all.
  • Assuming that a woman is responsible for the moral character of the relationship.
  • Just because a man appears to be a "good Catholic guy" does not mean he is a good person...or a good Catholic for that matter.
  • Taking dating too seriously. It is a date, not a lifetime commitment.
  • You have to date and marry a Catholic.
  • Do not go on lots of dates. Date only one person at a time.
  • Flirting and being honest about your feelings as a woman is not wrong or shameful.

There is a lot to think about and unlearn when it comes to this stuff in my own life.

More and more, I find myself sharing and talking with other Catholic men and women. Many have similar experiences. Just many others have different ones.

The older I get the more I understand there are messages and beliefs I need to release and let go of because they were unhealthy, toxic, or hurtful to my own identity as a woman.

Maybe you are in the same boat as me, or perhaps you are not.

Are there ideas or concepts when it came to dating as a Catholic/Christian that were unhealthy in your journey?

Is there anything else you would add?

I am fascinated by this conversation and topic right now, and am interested to hear what the experience was like for other women and men.
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19 December 2019

What Jane Eyre Taught Me about Personal Conviction and Love

Over the last few years, I have been trying to take more time to read the classics, especially those written by women. So, after listening to a podcast episode in which the two hosts mentioned their love for Charlotte Bronte's classic tale Jane Eyre, I decided to read it one Christmas break. 

The story of Jane Eyre is one filled with sorrow, suffering, love, redemption, and twists and turns every step of the way. The story begins with an orphaned little girl Jane, who is cruelly treated by uncaring relatives. She is sent away to school, lives there as a student, and eventually becomes a teacher.

Desirous of new opportunities, Jane accepts a governess position at a beautiful, mysterious manner called Thornfield. There she meets Mr. Rochester, a moody, passionate man.

I will stop to there to leave room for those who haven't read it (go do so now!), and I certainly do not want to spoil the redemptive ending. But as I have read and reflected on this literary classic, I realize Jane's life has many important lessons to teach women today, specifically about personal love and conviction.

What are those most important insights?

Hold fast to your convictions.

Love may look different than you imagine.


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13 December 2019

What Locusts are Teaching Me About the Last 10 Years

I am really fortunate to be surrounded by a great tribe of people in my life.

I was recently on the phone with one of my besties who is a priest. I was sharing with him some surprising jealousy and insecurities that rose up inside of me over the last few weeks.

While I am more self-aware than I used to be, I still struggle sometimes with beating myself up for my big feelings or becoming too self-critical.

The good ol' padre gave me some spiritual homework...because why not?

He asked me to spend some significant time these last weeks of December to reflecting and praying over the last decade I have lived in order to prepare for a new one beginning on January 1, 2020.

We ended the phone call. It was already dark outside.

I turned on the tree lights and lit lots of candles in my living room. The smell was like pine and my apartment had a cozy glow as I settled in my prayer to do some talking and listening with God.

I started to name all the many things that have taken place in my life this last decade: starting and completing my graduate degree, marriage, divorce, annulment, healing and growth, a serious relationship and later breaking up, more healing, more dating part 2, writing, speaking, and growing in my creative dreams and passions.

The last ten years have held a lot for me.

I started thinking about how this decade, in many ways, was filled with a lot of growing, pruning, weeding, plowing, and tending the soil of my life. I remembered certain images God has given me in prayer related to those farming analogies, even though I am the furthest thing from a farmer girl.

So I sat in the silence, remembering and reflecting.

I prayed a bold prayer: Jesus, can this next year of my life and into this next decade, bring about the fruit and harvest of the previous decade? Can all that healing, growth, and transformation come to fruition in these next years? Can this decade be my decade?

I did not hear an audible voice, but it felt so honest and true. And I know God heard my prayer.

As I wiped the tears from eyes, I remembered a specific memory.

It was when I was married and going to a support group for women whose husbands struggled with sexual integrity issues. I was crying to her, wondering if life would always be this way or if it would ever change. She quoted to me a verse of Scripture I had never heard before, Joel 2:25: I will repay you double for what the swarming locust has eaten.

I remembered the verse that night sitting in my living room. I sat with the words and asked Jesus that this next year especially and into my next decade would bring a harvest in my life.

Fast forward to the next day when I was sitting in a Walmart parking lot. I had a list of items to get ready for a day retreat that weekend I was hosting at the parish I work at.

I was finishing a podcast episode of Ruah Storytellers. It was this episode.

Rachel expressed similar longings and desires that I wish for in my own life. Right there in my car, she mentioned that verse in Joel I just recalled the night before.

Cue the waterworks.

I burst into tears and started to sob.

Jesus saw me. He heard that little prayer. It did not necessarily take away the big feelings or change my reality in an instant, but I felt seen and heard by God.

I mopped up my face and thanked Jesus for hearing that little prayer. 

I am believing and holding tight to that promise in Joel 2:25.

God will repay double for all that I endured, healed from, and the many ways I have grown over the last ten years.

I have no idea what 2020 or the next years will hold for me. But I am claiming that Scripture over my life in expectant faith and trust, that this decade will bring about the harvest of those difficult and painful years.

Who knew locusts had so much to me about the last decade of life.

Come Lord Jesus.

I am waiting with openness and expectancy.

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