22 October 2018

Running, Retreating, and Why It Matters to Dress for the Weather

It feels like for many of us these fall months can be some of the busiest.

Back to school for kids, sports teams begin again, and getting ready for the holidays and colder months, it seems to be a full time.

This weekend was just that for me.
Friday and all day Saturday was the first (hopefully annual) Radiant Light Conference here in SE Michigan. It has been the prayers and a lot of hard work from friends of mine in ministry. Seeing a need, we jumped and took a risk to make it happen.

We had 130 women of all ages show up, and overall I think it was a beautiful and fun weekend.

We had a fancy social gathering on Friday night. Saturday morning started with Eucharistic Adoration. 

Women arrived to a beautiful space, legit swag bags, lots of amazing vendors, and opportunities for reconnecting with friends while time to meet new women. There were keynotes from local women and break-out workshops in the afternoon on everything from finding holy rest, finding joy in transition, and finding God in creativity/art.

I think Mary (the brains behind this project) really tapped into a need in our local community for women to have more of these types of things: for community, sisterhood, and learning and growing together.

It was a long day, but I was so happy to be part of this good work.

Sunday morning I ran my second marathon in Detroit. 

I will be honest and say my training was less committed, and I felt that in both my mental game and in my physical body at times. My time did not really improve at all, but I think going in I knew that.

I was disappointed I had to walk a little bit. But as I finished, I didn't want to be shaming myself. I ended really convicted of a few things.

First, I need to train smarter and be consistent with my running group. 
And second, I need to be committed to strength training. Like a lot.

Every life experience is a teaching moment and this race was no different.

It was so wonderful to see my cheering squad at the half-way point. But even better right as I crossed the finish line, and after for some big bear hugs.

I also learned the valuable lesson of why it really matters to dress properly for the weather. With running, I typically tend to overdress in worry I may get too cold. Wellllll yesterday I could've dressed warmer.

When I started seeing everyone else in their running tights, I knew this was going to be a longggg morning. Case in point, be prepared and dress for the weather. #themoreyouknow

It is not always about the race, but the journey.

Yesterday's race was harder than I planned, but I know I can do hard things.

All of us can.
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16 October 2018

What a Broken Crucifix Teaches Me

We meet in the old convent basement. 

The couches don't match the faded pillows and the carpet is worn. It sometimes floods when a heavy rain comes and that musty basement smell hangs around.

This is where we meet on Thursday evenings for a divorce support group from now through January.

On the wall across from where I sit hangs a broken crucifix, literally.

I cannot help but find it to be rich of meaning, especially as I gather with a handful of other women going through a divorce.

One of Jesus' arms is busted clean off, while the remaining arm hangs on the cross.

It takes me back to a tearful conversation I had with my parents a few years ago.

I was still living with my parents as I waited for my divorce to be finalized.

It was one of those no-good, very awful days. I was a mess and hot tears ran down my face.

I wept over the loss of my marriage, wailing to my parents wondering in fear what would become of the new reality of my life: Would I always be alone? How could I trust men again? How would I make it financially on my own?

I was overwhelmed and afraid.

I distinctly remember crying and saying to my Dad (a deacon), "Dad where is Jesus in all of this? I don't feel His presence. The pain of it all feels like I am being nailed to a cross. Where is He?!"

My Dad, a very quiet man of faith, looked at me with tears in his eyes, his voice shaking said: "Well He's getting nailed to the cross next to you."

It made me stop and think.

I recall that conversation now as I gaze on a broken crucifix, helping to lead other women through their own pain and grief.

That broken crucifix is a reminder of the pain I was in at one time of my life, and how my Dad helped remind me to believe that Jesus was in it with me.

One the the things I most deeply love about Christianity is the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ all rolled into one. Jesus knew the human experience in all things except sin.

He knew what it was to be afraid, anxious, angry, confused, joyful, depressed, and even silly. Jesus of all people knows what it is to suffer. And looking at that little broken crucifix is a gentle reminder of that to me.
My God understands and can relate to the pain in my life, in your life.

I easily forget about God's presence or faithfulness when life is all hunky dory. 

All too often, I take for granted the people or blessings in my life. I forget to thank God for all that I have, all that He has done in my life and how He has restored me.

Every Thursday evening, I glance up at the wall and look at Jesus. I smile, grateful for the reminder of His nearness in the most messy and painful experiences of our lives.

The next time your gaze lands on a crucifix in your home or church, linger there a little bit longer. Savor the image.

And remind yourself (especially when you don't believe it), that the presence of the living God is nearer than you realize.

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09 October 2018

An Epidemic Only Whispered About?

I recently came across a Gallup poll that said in 2018 43% of Americans believe that pornography is "morally acceptable."

That is up from 36% just one year ago. And the reality that percentage will only grow is heart breaking to me.

I am deeply convicted that pornography is the greatest killer to healthy relationships between women and men. It leads us to treat other people as objects, merely used for personal sexual satisfaction. 

I recently was on an episode of Certifiably Catholic hosted by some of my favorite humans.

In it, we talk honestly about a conversation too often I find the Church only whispers about, pornography and sexual addiction. 

You can listen here

In the interview, I share about a ministry my friend Danielle and I have developed over the last year called Whispered in the Dark.  We work to offer resources, counselors, and hope to people whose lives, relationships, or marriages have been impacted by pornography and sexual addiction.

On November 10th, we are offering a day conference in Detroit, Michigan. 

If you are in or near the SE Michigan area, we would so greatly appreciate your support and help in getting the word out.

Its time to stop whispering.

Let's start to have honest, real conversations about the biggest relationship epidemic in modern culture.

Thank you for your support.

It means so much to me. 

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08 October 2018

Advent, Bearing Light, & why I'm not just trying to sell you stuff

It is currently 82 degrees in southeast Michigan on October 8th. 

I have needed to turn the AC back on for at least the next day or so. When you live for fall, this feels absolutely insane. 
I totally feel like I have been getting gypped on the weather department.

The good news is by the weekend it will be in the mid fifties.

Let's talk Advent, yes in October.
If fall is my favorite season, Advent is my favorite liturgical season in Church year.

On Friday, Blessed is She released the new Advent devotional, Bearing Light. This year the author is Shannon Evans. She wrote a great blog post on her own blog describing the story behind the prayer and making of this year's Advent devotional

What I am most looking forward to in this Advent devotional, is that we will get a chance to dive more deeply into Mary's prayer, the Magnificat. There will also Lectio Divina prayer to related Scripture verses, as well as, three unique female saints who bear the the light of God out into the world.

Another way to order the Advent devotional is to order the Bearing Light Advent Bundle
It is exquisite. 

This year's bundle includes: the devotional written by Shannon, an imago Dei canvas mini wristlet, and the Magnificat candle (which is made of frankincense and myrrh essential oils).

I have seen the candle in person. It smells amazing, and the packing it arrives in is equally beautiful.

Shannon is such a gifted writer and her own first book will be published this spring. I hope you'll join me and thousands of other women around the globe to prepare our hearts together this Advent. 
And if you wouldn't mind using my affiliate links, I would be so very grateful. ;-)

Sometimes it feels weird to ask people to buy stuff through using my affiliate links, but I really try not do it a lot. And I only do so when there are products I personally use in my life and ones that I get excited about.

So I am not just trying to sell you stuff, honest. :)

It can feel crazy to talk Advent so early in the fall, but we all know it will arrive sooner than we think.

Have you started thinking about Advent yet?

What do you most look forward to in that liturgical season of the Church year?

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05 October 2018

What I Wish I Had Done Before Getting Married (and Divorced)

I shared this past weekend on retreat that at thirty three years old, I have never felt more whole and free than any other time in my life.

I know it has a lot to do with the last five -six years of dating, marriage, divorce, and now being single again.

There are so many lessons I wish I knew before I had gotten married, so many questions I wish I was brave enough to ask. But sometimes you only what you know when you know it.

I didn't know certain things in my late twenties, but now I am much more self-aware.

Counseling is a great way of helping you dig deep and acknowledge the broken pieces inside your heart and soul.

As I navigate things like dating and sexuality (in healthy ways), it causes me to reflect on what I wished I had done the first time around.

Here is what I have learned from these chapters of my life:

I wish  . . .

  • Someone told me what healthy sexuality looks like in marriage, that is never about forcing or manipulation
  • I had wiser, older women I could talk about really personal things like sex with and ask questions
  • That I knew more about my own body as a woman 
  • I had asked direct questions on my partner's sexual history, addiction, and addictive behaviors
  • I knew its okay (even as a married woman) to use my voice to say "NO!" or "I am not comfortable with this..."
  • I worked through wounds and baggage from my childhood and family or origin
  • I learned about things like codependency or unhealthy relationship dynamics
  • That I knew I was enough just the way I was or that I don't need a man to make me feel "happy" or "fulfilled"
  • I was secure in my own body, soul, and spirit
  • I was at home in my body

There are probably a lot more things I could add. 

Life experience has an odd way of sometimes being one of the most powerful catalysts for growth and inner healing. I know I have learned that.

I celebrate and thank God for the journey (sometimes an intense one at that!) He has me on.

It has refined me into a stronger, wiser, more courageous woman.

Perfect? Gosh no!

But more healed, whole, and free to be me the way I am? Absolutely.

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03 October 2018

Retreating, Writing, & Seeing my Reflection in Jesus

This past weekend I went to Arizona for a team retreat with all the writers from Blessed is She. The last two years we've met in Minnesota, but this year sprung for a Southwest location so more of our west coast writers could come.

While it was over 100 degrees the entire weekend, our days together were filled with sharing, praying together, laughter, great food, and time to be together as a sisterhood. 

I am so grateful to be a part of this team, and for the gift of these women in my life.

One of the things we were asked to do in preparation for our team retreat was to come up with writing goals.

I know I keep saying I want to have a better rhythm of writing here, but I keep struggling with actually making it happen. There is something of me that is drawn to blogging even if it is not as popular these days.

I have had some new freelance writing opportunities come into my lap, one which includes becoming regular contributor for Verily. I am so excited to be a regular contributor and have been eagerly following Verily since it launched.

One of the best things from the weekend in Arizona was the writing workshop led by our managing editor, Nell

She posted our first devotion each of us ever wrote for Blessed is She (almost four years to the date!) and our most recent one. Then, we were given some things to think about and compare our writing from the beginning to our writing in the present.

I almost burst out laughing. You know what I wrote about in my first devo?

William Wallace yelling, "FREEDOM!" before he is killed. And you know what? 
I don't even like the movie nor I have seen it in its entirety. 

It really got me thinking about the authenticity in my writing voice for Blessed is She, but also how it has shifted personally. 

I shared in the large group after this exercise, that at 33 years old I am more free and whole than at any other time in my life. And because of those things I think it has opened up greater authenticity in my own life, through my writing and in sharing personally.

It left me thinking how I really want to craft my skills to become a better, more effective writer.

One of the best parts of the retreat was when we had Eucharistic Adoration after the Vigil Mass. Fr. Parks did a procession and brought Jesus to each of us individually. A friend took this picture, I'm the one with my hands opened.

Isn't that just beautiful?

When Fr. Parks brought Jesus to me, I saw in the gold of the monstrance a reflection of my eyes. I saw my reflection in Jesus and my reflection was in Jesus. 

It was such a sweet moment with the Lord and left me feeling like jelly on the inside.

I came home a little more tired physically (hello 3 hour time difference!) but refreshed spiritually from time with the Lord and renewed after time with my sisters.

The next month or two will be pretty busy around here: my second marathon, some work functions, and two speaking events in our local diocese.

So as life picks up, I am glad I had this past weekend to rest and return back to renewed for all that is ahead.

What is new and exciting in your life these days? :)

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