22 January 2014

Its supposed to be about life...not death

Today marks the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the case that 41 years ago made abortion legal on demand in our country.  This is the first time in seven years I will not be attending or taking a group of young people to the nation's capital to peacefully march and pray for lives lost and affected by abortion.  I like to think I am there in spirit praying with those in Washington DC.

I am pro-life.  I have grown up spiritually adopting unborn babies, praying outside abortion clinics, raising money for crisis pregnancy centers, and supporting homes for women who help them keep their babies/get their lives on track.  I'm not trying to convince a pro-choice person to change their perspective, BUT rather I'm reflecting on my own experience in the pro-life movement and why I think one tactic I have seen regularly {the use of graphic images in public}over the years perhaps doesn't quite send the right message intended.

When I first learned what abortion was as a child, I remember my Mom explaining it very gently to me.  She was basic and didn't go into all the details but kept it simple and straight to the point.  She didn't show me images of dead babies or broken mangled bodies with parts barely attached.  I think graphic images used in public settings can scare children and force them at a young, vulnerable age to see something they really are not ready for. 

What parent would let their young child watch a horribly gruesome or graphic horror movie?  Yeah we know the blood is fake and the actors are pretending, and even though it is not real, does that mean you would let them watch/see the real thing?  Of course not!  The pro-life cause is about protecting all innocent human life, and that should include little ones who are not ready to see those graphic images.

Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson used to work for Planned Parenthood until leaving it behind to create a ministry to help workers in the abortion industry who wanted to leave.  As a woman who formerly worked for PP, she has an interesting perspective in a great article on why abortion workers actually love those graphic images.  Sound weird? Give a read, you may be surprised as I was.

Many studies on violent video games and movies have shown over the amount of times we see/are exposed to them, we actually become desensitized to them.  I would say that can be true of seeing graphic images of abortion.  When I first saw an image of an abortion for what it was, I was shocked and scared.  I cried, it was heart breaking; both for the mother and little one.  But the day I start to feel 'comfortable' or don't even flinch looking at that broken little body, that means my heart has become hardened; just as a person who constantly sees violent video games or shows becomes hardened to what they are watching.  We should never become hardened in hearts to evil, to death, to pain and suffering of the vulnerable. Yes, I believe people should see a graphic image of abortion as a sobering reality of what it is.  However, that needs to be done with prudence and thought as to the individual and what difference would this image make to help them understand...not just using it for shock value.

One hard lesson I have learned as a young adult is taking great passion, excitement, and zeal for something I love {my faith} and coming across as an unkind, not very loving Christian.  It was more about getting out my point and being right, than really thinking about my delivery or just talking things out in a calm, respectful manner.  I cringe looking back at my attitude as a 'baby' Christian, but am thankful for being humble enough to admit it and to have learned from times like that.  I have had to learn in more occasions than one that wisdom by Dad shared with me when I first got into youth ministry: yes its important to know your faith and be able to explain it logically, but you also have to be pastoral with people.  If you are not pastoral, you'll loose them.  And for me that has been SUCH a good lesson to learn not only for work in ministry, but just for the real world in general.

Today as hundreds of thousands of Americans are peacefully marching in the nation's capital, they will pass by sections along the way where very horrific images will be shown of what abortion is.  I pray people will not just casually glance at such horror.  I pray those who use graphic images in very public settings will be mindful of those who could/do see those images, and how it cause more harm than good.

The battle on abortion is truly a real battle, one of life and death.  Me personally, I find more value in focusing on life not death.  The lives of women affected in the aftermath, women have no help/resources when finding themselves in an unexpected pregnancy, and yes, on the lives of those human babies.

Its supposed to be about life...not death. 
So please leave your graphic images at home.

18 January 2014

What to do you when you overfill the crock-pot...

...well for starters, you don't pull a Teresa.  It's really nothing to flip a table over ;)
i'm from paterson teresa giudice gif

Linking up with Jen and her lovely crew for some quick-takery of goings on in the past week.

{1}  Because you're a sharp crayon, you realized there was probably a small mishap in making dinner this week when the crock-pot over-flowed.  My brother-in-law was recently telling us about his dee-lic new pork roast recipe he and his wife/sister made for dinner.  How does a pork roast marinated in orange juice, BBQ sauce, baby potatoes, onions, carrots, and array of spices sound?!  Amazing beyond belief?? Yeah, that's what I though too.  After I heard the ingredients I felt like one of Pavlov's dog with all the drool action going on.
After hitting up the grocery store, Jim and I decided to make this feast for dinner.   It all went great until he realized the crock-pot was WAY to filled up and then after five hours of cooking realized we forgot to add the spices.  So we knew when we took everything out to eat, we'd have a lovely little mess to clean-up.  20 minutes of cleaning up aside, oh and no spices, this dish was sick.
BBQ sauce is splendid and orange juiced soaked baby potatoes may not be your cup of tea, but I'm telling you it was worth the wait and mess.  My mouth was happily enjoying the flavor party going on.

{2} I am so excited because a Youth Group meeting we are using tomorrow night is going to get published on this website.  Tomorrow night we are having a night one Time magazine's fav person of the year, Pope Francis.  So our 10th grade youth leaders came up with this awesome idea to celebrate and learn about Frank in a modern, relevant way for teens.
Did you ever play with Pokemon as a kid??  Well they created a scavenger hunt through our church building and are calling it "Pope-a-mon"...if you're a really sharp crayon, you'll notice the play on words here;)  But the best part is the scavenger hunt is made up of clues with crazy, random facts about the Pope.  Top it off with a pinata and some great YouTube clips, and I think it will be a great way to make learning about Frank fun and cool.

{3}  Speaking of Frank, can I just say it is two years away and I am already so.excited. for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland!?!?!
I am on the WYD committee for our archdiocese.  Which basically means I attend meetings where we get lots of papers, discuss the details for the WYD pilgrimage to Poland our diocese will offer, and if we finish early get a free lunch at the seminary cafeteria.  I like food...especially pierogies ;)
I am hopeful I can take another group of teens and young adults from our parish to experience all the awesome, crazy, holy, insanity that is World Youth Day.

 {4}  Less really is more.  I am thinking and reflecting on that more...and on why I hate shopping malls {somewhat}

{5}  I suck at trying to drink a good amount of water everyday, especially as I am working to kick my love affair with Diet Coke.  I thought I was on the fast track to success when Jenna once told me about this app on your phone that tracks how much water you drink every day and even gives you reminders throughout the day.  Well for 2 weeks I was rocking it out at that, and then kinda stopped.  But when of the gals in my small group told me how she cuts up fresh cucumber and lemon in a pitcher of ice water, I decided to give it a try.  And wow-o-wow...my water has a vibrant burst of flavor that just made me happy and smile more as I chugged down my H2O.
Try it out...maybe it will help you get more water into your day.

{6}  Today (Saturday) was a great, but long day.  In our diocese, we celebrated MLK Jr. day a little early with a day of service in Detroit.  Close to 400 hundred teens came out to do work service in the name of Jesus and in memory of a great man's life.  Our youth group joined up with my ministry bestie and his youth group to make 1,200 personal hygiene kits for homeless folks in less than 2 hours! It was an awesome day filled with prayer, laughs, and community building.  Days like this make me so appreciative of the job I get to do:)

{7}  Yesterday I watched this 50 some minute documentary on what life is like inside the secret state of North Korea.  I honestly knew very little about this country and that it was Communist; not much more than that.  Seriously.  WATCH THIS.  It's worth the time and really opened my eyes, and made me so much more grateful for the life in this country I am blessed to have.

Have a great weekend peeps! Say a prayer our "Pope-a-mon" night is a success, and that especially nobody gets hurt when its pinata time ;-)

14 January 2014

Why I hate shopping malls...

...Gasp. I know right?

I used to get all jazzed up and excited to go shopping aka splurge on myself.  Now I wasn't as geeked up as one of my fav Real Housewives of New York City, Ramona Singer; but I certainly could and have been known to shop with vigor, especially on Black Friday.

I am not trying to say shopping malls are evil places or even that folks who splurge on themselves are selfish, bad people; heck I have done my share of splurging over the years.  But in the last month I have just begun to realize some things that have caused me to reflect on how I spend my money at the mall and why exactly I do.

When I go shopping, I tend to focus on how much MORE I wish I could have and/or buy.  It is not a sin to want to have nice things and be presentable to the world, but as our desire for more stuff grows it can become all-consuming.  It is as if "window shopping" is like lust.  Just as a man/woman would sexually lust after each other in a selfish way, I have begun to notice the tendency within myself to lust after cute clothes, accessories, or shoes that a) I really don't need or 2) Can't really afford anyway  ... its like even what I can afford to buy is not good enough.  I grew up hearing from the time I was little, what matters the most are people and relationships; not material possessions.  And honestly, I never thought I was terribly materialistic, but I can see in little ways (if I'm really honest with myself) how my desire for never being satisfied with what I have is a circle that just keeps on spinning if I don't acknowledge it.  We cannot take our stuff with us from this world into the next; when we die, the stuff doesn't go with us.

I've noticed how easy it is to go to Target or the mall for one specific item and then come out with $40 worth of stuff that in 6 months I'll forget about or loose interest in.  Sure, I know a huge part of that is self-control and being frugal, but I also wonder if there is any connection to the fact that in our world of instant gratification we don't want to wait to buy it till we can afford it. I want.need.can not live without this.watch/shirt/dress/pair of shoes/movie/etc.  It is easy to buy things because let's be honest, waiting to save or buy when you can afford is not fun (yes smart/frugal...but not always fun).  I have to get better at curbing that tendency and being more aware of that desire to spend willy nilly...especially when I am at Target ;)

It drives me nuts at every.single.store. today when you are at the check-out counter offers you the option to open a store credit card so you can save some un-goldy small amount of money, which isn't even worth opening the card to begin with.  I think when shopping today it is so easy for people to buy things with money they haven't got....those tricky,tricky sales people ;)  I know I am not the the best example of a person who financially has it all together, but I know enough to not open multiple credit cards.

It may sound silly but I have also been challenged in how I spend my money at the mall by the example of Pope Francis.  As a person of faith, I try hard to have my beliefs impact my daily life so I can (hopefully) be a good, true example of what I believe and profess to be truth.  Ohhh Frank...how you challenge my comfortable, nice suburbanite life...
Pope Francis actually makes me uncomfortable on a regular basis.  But that's awesome (most days) because it makes me uncomfortable in way that stretches my faith and how I treat others.  Pope Francis drives a 19 year old used car, wears simple black shoes, and challenges people to instead of coming to visit him rather give the money to the poor/homeless.  He recently named 19 cardinals for the Church; but these men of God were specifically were either from more poor countries and were more aware/in touch with the plight of the poor/homeless/unwanted.  His example and message are another way I need to evaluate how perhaps I am too comfortable with the "stuff" of my life, when instead, it is so much more vital and important to care for those who have so much less than I do.

Jim and I are really starting to be intentional about creating a budget this year.  I am paying off my credit card and putting it away in my jewelry box, so as to not tempt me for frivolous purchases.  We are going to start reading those dusty Dave Ramsey books that have just been a decoration on the bookshelves.  I have begun to create a running of list of prioritizing how I plan to use money from each paycheck; whether its a new shirt, getting my eyebrows waxed, or going on a retreat with my small group...I am consciously planning ahead for purchases and weighing the cost of how I spend, so as to help eliminate wasteful spending.  We both want to be financially prepared for our future, save, and lay a good foundation for when we have a family of our own.

So in the large scheme of things, I really don't hate hate shopping malls...but I am finding myself starting to really really think about and be more intentional about how/why I spend money at the mall...

09 January 2014

One Little Word {2014}

I suck at New Year's Resolutions (minus the year I went to Weight Watchers & lost 30ish pounds).
I start off with grand expectations, like many of us, but by the time Valentine's Day rolls around I'm like, "Screw it, I'm eating the damn roll/cupcake/{insert your comfort food here}. 
Multiple things {resolutions}to work on actually make me anxious; probably because when I don't accomplish them the way I want, I can beat myself for it the following months.

But I like the idea of one little word to help guide, encourage, and give me direction as I start and live 2014. So I've been thinking and asking God what one little word would He like to use to help teach me is.

On NYE, Jim and I were driving to church for an evening of prayer, food, & ringing in 2014 with Jesus.  During prayer, earlier that day I was asking God and listening for guidance on a word.  I said to Jesus, "Lord, please help me cling more and more each day to your sacred heart!"  Cling. Hmmm, like a window cling?  Clinging to Jesus, yeah I like that...

Well I asked Jim what he thought, and his response was, "...Yeah I guess its okay, as long as you don't become one of those weird, crazy, clingy people."  Oh.okay.  Nothing like honest feedback from your spouse.  After he said that, I had all these weird images of crazy cat ladies or stalkers who can't take a hint running through my head.  And knowing that wasn't helping me stay focused or in tune to the voice of the Spirit, I decided to nix "cling."

So since then, I've been praying about it more.  And today in my prayer, I was struck by the word focus.  So I've been sitting with "focus" and its really starting to gel in me (not to mention I'm not getting images of cat ladies in my head anymore).
Lord, where do I need more focus in my life?  What are the things that you want me to focus on this year?
Honestly some of the things that came to mind surprised me, while some I think I always need to be consistent with.

Focus on...not being so reactionary
Darn it.  This one is hard for me.  I'm on the more emotional side of the feelings spectrum; when I'm happy, bubbly, you'll know it.  When I'm frustrated and ticked off at someone, I quickly react and sometimes let it just eat away at me.  I react {at times} poorly to mean.insensitive.any type. comments and actions so easily; and it doesn't always help that I'm a more sensitive soul.  I get worked up about dumb things and worry, "what does this text 'really' mean?" or "How can she act this way, does she realize how that comes off to other people?".  I need to focus and get better at how I react to situations with others.  If someone chooses to ignorant, mean, or insensitive, I have a right to how it makes me feel.  But I really should not get SO worked up about it, and just remember I actually have the power to decided how much/if at all this controls and affects my perspective, my attitude.

At work the other day, I reacted poorly to a series of texts from a family member; over-analyzed, got worked up, and frankly, just got my panties in a bunch.  While I was driving home, I was just talking {with a little venting} to Jesus about the whole situation.  As I was driving, I began to look more objectively at the situation and realized once again I over-reacted.  I sincerely started praying for this person; asking God to bless her, to help me genuinely love, and be kind to her.  It did help me re-evaluate the situation, and remember in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter.  Feelings are one thing, but its about how I react to those feelings and how much power I let them have over me.  Acknowledge when I catch myself being too reactionary, name my feelings, and then simply move on....

Focus on...spending daily time in God's Word
I'm sure a lot of people include spiritual goals in their resolutions, but this is one I have been trying to more faithful in the last few months.  Growing up as a Catholic, I definitely met and encountered the Lord in our faith.  And definitely was familiar with the Bible {in one year at Mass, through the readings, we actually read over half of the Bible!}, but never was really taught how to pray with Scripture or make it a regular part of my prayer life.  I have a great spiritual director who has always said just as we would reverence the Eucharist, so too should we honor and venerate the Word of God. love.that.

In the fall, Jim and I went on a retreat where a nun gave a talk where she said we have no excuse to not spend time with Scripture every morning {I've heard this before, but it has never struck me as much this time}.  Since then I have been slowly working my way praying and reflecting through the New Testament writings.  I set my alarm every most nights to 30-60 minutes before I need to leave for work in the morning, so I can have my prayer time in the morning.
Do I get up every morning? No, honestly right now my track record is 2-3 days each week.  But I keep striving and working at it, because when I do it I know I'm checking in with God, leaning on Him to guide my day instead of my plans I have already mapped out in my planner.  Since the beginning of December I've been making my way through the book of James; what an awesome little gem it is!!  Who knew 5 small chapters could be so jam packed with wisdom and relevance for where I am in life right now.

If I try to live my life mapped out my what I have written down in my planner, it won't necessarily be living the life God has for me.  But when I put Him first, get into Scripture, and bring my day before Him each morning, it is a sign that I am trying to live under the lordship of Jesus and not under the lordship of the world.

Focus on...not caring about what others think of me
Sometimes I care or worry too much about what other people think of me.  It comes in all sorts of forms from comparing myself to other people to feeling guilty when I have to say no to something.  I want people to like me, find me to be an enjoyable, fun person to be around; I mean, who doesn't want that?  But sometimes I care too much about what others think: was what I said the right thing, over-analyzing something said to me, and wondering were my words/actions mis-read or judged wrongly.  At the end of the day, it really can not be about trying to please other people, or even myself; but caring about what God thinks of me.  His opinion {along with my husband and family/friends} is really all that matters.

I think part of not caring about what others think of me, is related to having confidence and self-esteem; and not believing the negative self-talk which I am working on getting better at.  Sometimes I have to just chuckle as I think about Jesus not caring what others thought of Him.  He could have cared less that he ticked off the Pharisee's or when many disciples walked away from Him when they thought what He was calling them to was crazy.  If Jesus only cared about what His Father thought and not about all the nay-sayer's, how much more true is that for me?

We all need an attitude adjustment in an ongoing way throughout our life, so that we can become more fully who God created us to be.  We have all those certain area's of our lives that need direction and refinement.  And for where God has me in my life right now, this word resonates with me in so many ways.
I am excited and curious to see where this one little word will take, lead, and teach me in 2014...

03 January 2014

Cheetah-print slippers are my happy place:)

Okay friends, I know I've probably come very late to the party on this one; but wow-o-wow, The Hunger Games is an awesome read!!!  Like really awesome.  New Year's Day I finally cracked it open and couldn't put it down...well almost, at least until it was time to make and then consume some blueberry Belgian waffles.  I will stop almost anything for yummy food.
Only about 5 chapters in I love the story theme in good vs. evil, and I'm already wondering/sensing if there is some type of redemption plot line.  I love a good story line when good ultimately triumphs over evil.
The summit of Croagh Patrick in Ireland...a mountain St. Patrick hung out on
Speaking of New Year's Eve, we had a nice, quiet evening.  At our parish, one of the associate priest's was doing a vigil Mass for the holy day the following day (Mary, the Mother of God) at 8pm just for young adults.  It was not a huge crowd, but small, intimate, and very sacred.  It was great because my two besties were there too (one who happens to be a sister in Ohio and was up for a family visit).  It was great to laugh and remember all of our crazy memories together; especially when the three of us clowns traveled together:)

After Mass, there was a pot-luck downstairs.  We laughed, ate good food, and had great conversations.  Then at 11:30pm, Fr. Steve led us in a time of prayer, worship, and song before Jesus.  It was grand.  Come on, for.real.  What better way to ring in the New Year than with the King of Kings?

Jim plays guitar, and over the last few months has begun to learn the chords of different praise/worship songs.  This past weekend, he asked for the first time to sing along with him while he plays.  Thought I am quite sure no one at Sony will be offering us a contract any time soon, it's special to be able to share together.  Tonight we spiced up our prayer time by just playing and singing worship songs by candle light and the lit Christmas tree (cause Christmas is still going on, till ol' Epiphany! #partyonchurch)

Because on New Year's Eve, we were up late partying it up with Jesus, we slept in until 11am on Wednesday.  It was glorious, especially for me where sleeping in for me is 9am.  We decided to make to put our new Belgian waffle maker we got for Christmas to work.  We made a tasty batch of blueberry Belgian waffles for breakfast which we didn't promptly eat until 5pm.  #lazydayprobz
All we did was veg in our jammies, read, watch piles of snow fall outside our windows, and stuff our faces with waffles.  2014 was off to a good start around these parts:)

One of my late Christmas presents arrived this week; the ever glorious and comfy, Snooki Slippers.  Even though watching Jersey Shore is like watching a horrific train wreck happen, these 'snooki slippers' are the most comfy and warm slippers I have ever worn/owned.  And the cheetah print design just makes me smile...every lady needs a little animal print in her life:)

This week I got to have coffee with some friends on two different occasions.  The first time I went out with one of the gals from my small group.  We've been prayer partners over the last few weeks, and decided it would be nice to catch up on a more personal basis after the holidays.
Then yesterday, I grabbed coffee with another friend while the snow whirled around outside.  Beth is like a second mom to me; she's actually old enough to be my Mom, but she is great encourager and such a prayer warrior.  Good friends are such a treasure.

On a sad note, somehow a clump of lights on the Christmas tree are out.  It first happened on Sunday evening, but Jim jiggled them around and re-plugged then in, and Bam! they were working fine.  But yesterday as I was getting my hunger games on (reading not eating waffles), out of a corner of my eye I saw a flicker of light and the same clump was out again.  We cannot seem to see what the problem is.  So I guess new tree lights is the first order of business next December.
 Our tree...before the tree lights decided to give out on half of the tree.

 All you folks on the East Coast or in the Mid-West, stay warm and safe during the snow-apocalypse!

Have a cozy weekend...I'll be spending it in my Snooki slippers with mug-o-tea in hand:)
09 10