My Sisters, The Saints {A book review}



My Sisters, The Saints

I first heard about this book from a friend, but didn't think much of it, really. Dang it! Should have listened to her when she first mentioned it. (Sorry, Colly!)

In one word, this book is: amazing.

I didn't really know much about this book, and seeing as it's been around for 2 years, I am surprised I hadn't heard about it more. Because: blogs.  But, now! It's everywhere. Maybe I was just meant to read it now. At this moment in my life. Maybe it wouldn't have resonated with me so much back then? Who knows? I will stop analyzing.... now.

What I thought this book was? A collection of stories about the lives of the saints and why we should get to know them.

What this book ACTUALLY is?  Colleen's conversion. It's the story of how she found her identity within the faith she grew up with.

I LOVE CONVERSION STORIES! And memoirs. Which, if I really paid attention to the front of the book (see it right there?), it clearly says "a spiritual memoir." Score one for Jen.

You guys. Read this.

Colleen's story is so relatable. Relevant. Heart-breaking. Freeing. And most importantly, real.

Growing up with very devout Catholic parents, Colleen knew the faith well. She attended Mass. Knew the prayers of the rosary. Even memorized the Memorare. It wasn't until she was in college, doing well in school, getting good grades, keeping up the appearances of the "good college kid", while partying to the wee hours of the morning, that she had this overwhelming sense of emptiness.

Was there more than getting good grades and partying? What was her purpose? Was she happy?

After beginning to attend Mass occasionally, and even with her father on one particular winter break, did she receive the biography of Teresa of Avila. Once she started reading, she was hooked.

Saint Teresa became real to her, and helped her realize that maybe God was inviting her to share in her own divine love story.  It was through Saint Teresa that Colleen's conversion catapulted.

And so did her life. Finding the balance as a career woman with the desire to be a wife and mother. Dealing with her father's devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Living a long-distance engagement while a speech writer in a male dominated White House. And struggling with her own infertility.

Through it all, she had a new sister by her side. Saints Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Edith Stein, Mother Theresa and Mary, the mother of Jesus. For every big decision or season of her life, Colleen found strength, courage and hope in women that she never met, yet became some of closest people in her life.

It really is an awesome book. I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read it again, so I can comb through it and absorb more of it's awesomeness.  It even has discussion questions at the end for your own reflection or for a book study. What a great idea!

If I had to pick something that I didn't like, it would probably be that Colleen would share some stories from her life, but then never finish them. There were a few times when I would be reading and think, "wait, what happened with that one thing?!" But, I mean... I am just being picky.

If you love conversion stories, Saints and are in need of some extra encouragement, READ THIS BOOK! :)  If you do, let me know what you think!


The Catholic Young Woman is currently discussing this book, too! Check them out if you haven't already.

And, thanks to Blogging for Books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review! :)

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NAS: Discernment Challenges






Hello, friends! :) Here I am, again... slacking, again... and not prepared for my post this week. I hope to get to it soon. I am just a bit stretched at this moment.

Here is the prompt this week, though:
We all agree that discernment is challenging. Figuring out what the Lord is calling you to do with your life can be frustrating and exhausting. But, then add on lack of family support, cultural pressures, and your personal expectations... ugh. And, this isn't just in relation to vocational discernment, but general life discernment, too! How do you keep going? What helps you to push through? How can we encourage one another? What indicators have you experienced that lets you know you're going down the right path?

Head on over to Morgan's to get your linkup on!! :)


Next Week!
Still have those deal breakers?
We have chatted about our deal breakers/non-negotiables before, but how do you keep from letting your standards fall? What prevents you from just dating any guy out there? What keeps you going?

November 11
Feeling Down
What ways do you run to implore the Lord's help when you are struggling? Do you always spend time in Adoration? Do you dive into the bible? Automatically go to Confession? Could you be better? And what about those times when things are good and you are joyous? Do you still give the Lord your time?

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Happy 30th Birthday, Colly!


Ohhhh my gosh. This is a big year, Coll!  Celebrating TEN years of friendship AND your 30 years on this earth!
Those college days.

Man. Time flies, huh?

I just wanted to let you know... I love you. And I am honored to have you in my life.

We have been through a lot... you and me. Crazy college days. Relationships. Breakups. New jobs. Living together. Praying together. Discernment. Traveling. Marriages. Babies. International moves. Deaths. Love. Laughter. Prayer.

You are my other half. Always have been. Always will be.

Let's take a look at some fun pics, shall we? There is not a shortage of pics of you and I... 417 on FB alone. And there have GOT to be way more.... I just know. :)

MY FAVE PIC OF US!!
Some time in 2004?

College memories!


Life!


More recent times!

You brought me back home. You have laughed with me. Cried with me. Prayed with me.  I have seen you grow and stretch and change and learn and love and follow the Lord's will the best way you can. You have challenged me to do the same. We may drive each other nuts sometimes because of it, but it has only made us that much... better? Awesome-r? Stronger? More perfect?

Bahaha. I crack myself up.

I am so thankful for your friendship. LOVE YOU!

HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!!

Love,
Your Homie for Life!


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NAS: Let's talk about SEX, bay-bee!

I meeeeean, not all those deets. I am going to safely assume that we all know what sex is, and have a general idea on how it goes down. :)

What we are going to chat about is this: Our culture is obsessed with sex. With anyone! At anytime! If you want to, just do it! But, the Church teaches that sex was created for the context of marriage. Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren't you going around having sex with just anyone? How would you encourage others to do the same? How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?


I don't have sex. I haven't had sex. And, I won't be having sex unless I make some wedding vows with my future beloved, God-willing.

There, I said it.

Are you surprised?! Of course not! :)  Annnnnd, didn't we talk about this already?! Well, no. We have talked about chastity (and here)... which includes sex, but is much bigger. Sex can be talked about alll on it's own. :)

There are many people around the world who have chosen to not have sex for a variety of reasons. For me... growing up, I was not tempted. It was never really a struggle for me. I didn't date much. This is not to say that I was living a completely chaste life, or was curious about sex, but I found that it was not as much of a struggle for me as it was my peers, especially in high school.

When I first chose to join the "True Love Waits" campaign when I was in high school, it was because of this: I did not want to get STDs nor did I want to get pregnant.

The smaller outside rings are a recent
addition from my momma!
That's it. Honestly. I saw those things as a huge stress for a teenager. Some first hand, others from stories my mom would tell me of the kids she worked with. Both of those things seemed so daunting to me, that I would never want to tempt them. I loved kids and babies, but I didn't need them right then. Nor did I want to seek medical attention for something that was so easily avoidable.

Even though my Aunt Marie set up this beautiful God-centered ceremony with my parents, grandparents, Godparents and gave me my beautiful ring (that I still wear every.single.day.), and had everyone sign a paper that stated they would all help me live out my choice of not having sex until I was married... I didn't see it as anything more than just choosing to not have sex.

I didn't understand sexuality in the context of faith and God. At that time, I didn't understand God at all in my life. That wouldn't happen until my sophomore year in college.

Once I was in college and started understanding and seeking the answers to those big life questions: what is my purpose? What's the point of life? How did we all get here?  You know the ones.  I found comfort and Truth in the Catholic faith.  And thus, Truth and understanding of our sexuality, as women. As humans. As children of God.

The Theology of the Body is an amazing thing that Saint Pope John Paul II gave to the world. He allowed us to explore the similarities of men and women, on all levels. And you know what, us women are different from men. It's a plain fact. We see the world differently. We love differently. We think differently.  But, God created men and women to compliment one another. "This is why man and woman attract each other sexually and intellectually. When a husband and wife express their love for each other in bodily union, their love finds its deepest sensual expression. Just as God is creative in his love, so too man can be creative in love and give life to children" (Youcat #400).

I am not an expert in TOB nor do I plan on diving in right now... but I am trying to give a little context into why I choose to not have sex. It's more than just avoiding STDs and pregnancies. Sex is serious. Sex is important. Sex is beautiful. Sex is a big flipping deal! I respect it's purpose too much to just have it, just because I want it. It's not about what I want.

It's a gift. A gift of love.

Human love is reflective of divine love. The more a person loves and gives of himself, the more he resembles the love of God. The highest form of self-giving love between a man and a woman is by having sex. When there is sex, but no love a lie results "because the closeness of their bodies does not correspond to the closeness of their hearts.... sex then becomes inhuman; it is degraded to a means of obtaining pleasure and degenerates into a commodity" (Youcat #403).

To be able to share such a special gift adds weight to the seriousness of sex. To the relationship you are in: do I love this person so much that I am doing this for them, or is this only for my own pleasure? Our call to love should be all about the other person and not about you. Not about your wants or desires or pleasures. Our call to love requires a dying to oneself and to sacrifice for the other person. If I am choosing to go around having sex all the time, what is it is about? What is the focus? You and your desires?  Quite possibly. I wouldn't want to take away from the unifying, self-gift that sex is designed to be.

I don't want to do something that jeopardizes the love that I have and will give to my future husband, and that of God.

Ok, Jen, I'm not going around having sex with everyone! I know it's important and I am in a committed relationship. Yes! I am sure you are. And there are so many wonderful people that are in your same boat. What do I say to you? Hmm... I heard Pam Stenzel speak last year and the story of her priest friend counseling couples for marriage really stuck with me. He always asks them if they are having sex and/or living together, if so, he says, "I want you to look at each other and realize that your future spouse has already proven to you that they are comfortable having a relationship with a person outside of marriage." Bam! That is intense, huh? And while you may not agree with that statement, I think it's worth pondering.

Part of the self-giving, unifying love that sex offers is when the two become "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). That one flesh is the beautiful and amazing gift of a child. It's a natural, normal consequence of having sex. Our culture wants us to think that it's something we can control. We have contraception. Abortions. Fertility treatments that allow us to have babies, basically whenever we want. There is a huge disconnect in our world today that sex = babies. But, only sex when we want it. Babies when we are ready. And more often now, sex isn't even in the equation of baby-making. We have taken the entire thing and turned it around: sex isn't seen as a unifying, complete self-gift anymore, it's just a means of pleasure.  Ideally, when you have sex, you are telling the other person, "I am giving you all of me, including the possibility of having a child with you." If you are having sex outside of the context of marriage, but are not open to having the one thing that can naturally happen when you partake in the fun, you are in an essence not giving yourself completely to the other person. You are holding back part of the entire design of sex and relationships and marriage.

And basically... that's why I am not having sex. Yes, it's true... I don't want to get any STDs or get pregnant right now. But, I also respect the sacredness of sex and it's purposes: to unite with my future husband in the highest expression of love and bear fruit from that amazing love.

Apparently I had a lot more to say about this than I thought. :) And went in a slightly different direction than I was anticipating. Even though I am pretty adamant in what I believe here, please understand that I realize everyone is in a different place in life. I am not in the place to judge anyone who is having sex outside of marriage or using contraception or any of the other situations that don't fall into "not having sex before marriage and being open to life always." This is my perspective on sex and relationships and marriage... one in which I believe brings the fullness of life and love together. These are the reasons I choose to not have sex, and maybe they have resonated with you to take a different look at your life, no matter your state in it! :)

I know I'm no Arleen Spenceley (who undoubtedly has LOTS to say on this topic. Don't believe me?? Check out her website!), but I am passionate about this. How about YOU?  What do you all have to say?? Why do you choose to not have sex? Let us know, and linkup below!



Next Week!
Discernment Challenges
We all agree that discernment is challenging. Figuring out what the Lord is calling you to do with your life can be frustrating and exhausting. But, then add on lack of family support, cultural pressures, and your personal expectations... ugh. And, this isn't just in relation to vocational discernment, but general life discernment, too! How do you keep going? What helps you to push through? How can we encourage one another? What indicators have you experienced that lets you know you're going down the right path?

November (already?!) 4
Still have those deal breakers?
We have chatted about our deal breakers/non-negotiables before, but how do you keep from letting your standards fall? What prevents you from just dating any guy out there? What keeps you going?

November 11
Feeling Down
What ways do you run to implore the Lord's help when you are struggling? Do you always spend time in Adoration? Do you dive into the bible? Automatically go to Confession? Could you be better? And what about those times when things are good and you are joyous? Do you still give the Lord your time?

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How sweet my life really is.


Man. Bad days suck.

They can extend into weeks, and unfortunately for some, seasons of our lives. It's just part of life, they say. Things will work out, they say. Trust God, they say, even more.

Yes... I know. But it still flipping sucks sometimes.

When you have a crappy workday.

When you drop your less-than-three-week phone and shatter the screen.

When you wanted something so much (and thought you'd get it), but it wasn't in the cards.

When you realize you need to tighten up your spending, like yesterday... and realize even more how much life costs sometimes. And how embarrassing it is to admit it.

When you wish your family was closer so that you could go eat dinner with them.

When you have more crappy, crappy workdays. And question what you are doing there.

When you neglect your blog, when it's usually an outlet for you.

Ugh.

Things have seemed to just drop on top of one another. I mean... it overwhelms me all over again just thinking about it (so, why are you writing about it, Jen?!).  But, it's a different kind of overwhelming- if there are even different kinds.

It is overwhelming. But, it hasn't seemed to bring me so far down. Why is that? Is it the work with my therapist? Is it the Holy Spirit keeping me afloat? Is it finally realizing there is so much more to life, even when you have bad days?

Honestly... I am sure it's a combo of all that.  And probably because I will be 30 in January... and that's how 30 year olds respond to things. ;) Obviously.

Even amongst all the crazy and frustrations, I am more keenly aware of the many blessings in my life. It was so easy for me to see them this time, as opposed to being so clouded before and only seeing the bad.

The number one thing that I noticed... the amazing support system I have in my family and friends. This is one of those things that I would say 'til I was blue in the face, but never really understood. Now I do. My family and friends will support and sacrifice for me. I am seriously so blessed. So, so blessed. And thankful.

And this TWO YEAR OLD:


Her smile gets me every time. 
Her, "Aunt En"'s and stories and laughs and "I bein' silly!"'s just melt my heart.
The amount of times this girl brings me back to life is an amazing thing.
Oh, and those pigtails.

Even the simple things have brought me so much joy recently, like pulling up to my house and seeing my lit pumpkin!! :) It's amazing how a fake pumpkin can make your house feel more homey.


Um, also... how beautiful "Fall" can be here. It's been SUCH a blessing to finally be rid of some of the humidity and heat, and not die every time you walk outside:


 See??? Look at the blue sky. It's crazy that I live in FL. I mean... seriously.

And then your friends (Mart, Tom and the babe) take you to CPK to celebrate your TWO years in Florida. What?! How did that even happen. I came down the day after Zuz was born and haven't left. It's easier for me to grasp Zuz being 2 than it is for me to grasp being down here for two years. It's been a wonderful, sometimes difficult, 2 years, but I wouldn't change a thing. :)


One of the best things.... I have started to find a community down here. I have friends. I mean, I have always had friends, but not in my area. I love the Orams, but sometimes you need to hang out with other people. It has been a constant prayer, basically for the last two years, for which I have not seen the fruits. I was not (*ahem*) patient and put myself out there a bit... and have actually begun to develop some relationships with some great ladies. And meeting more and more people through the young adult stuff I help with. I wasn't sure it was possible for me to find that down here... but, of course, anything is possible when you seek the Lord's will. And we need to go through this life with people. It's so, so important.

So, yes. I have had a sucky couple of weeks. I wish they could have been different. And while I am still bummed (maybe seem a bit more bummed to my mom and Mart), I am fine.  I am so thankful my perspective has changed somehow and I am able to see the sweet side of my life, through the crazy.  Because I do, indeed, live a very, very sweet life.

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