Monday, August 30, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...!

This weekend I took part in two Catholic ministry activities. (As I stated before, I am actively trying to find people who share my beliefs this semester, so bear with me and please give your honest opinions!) I first went to mass with a *new* friend from the group. We handed out fliers to new college students who may be interested in joining the ministry club (which was no one...unfortunate, I know!) and a few hours later, I carpooled over to a barbecue.

It was so nice to get away from campus for an evening! The adult supervisor of the club cooked us dinner and we had a nice time hanging out as friends. There was zero "fellowship", which I was disappointed by (at the Protestant group, they do dinners like these, but it's usually bible based/faith related...and that's what I am thirsting for!!), but none the less, I was enjoying myself and making friends outside of my normal group of friends.

The ministry kids all went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic over the summer and I was just itching to hear about it. I was shocked that all I was hearing were stories about their drunken escapades. What about the charity? The volunteer work? The families? The children? The spiritual growth? I was just dumbfounded, but I let it slide.

I know I am different...I don't like to drink. Not only because the taste is horrific, but it is an expensive hobby, and I see the damage it does to unassuming souls. I don't condemn the activity altogether though. The Bible encourages moderate drinking: Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses. -1 Timothy 5:23
However, I don't support the act of drinking to get drunk...which is the obsession across college campuses. I thought the obsession would die out in the religious clubs, but it is just as prevalent in the Catholic ministry as any frat house at my college. (Though I am almost 99% positive the Protestant group does not partake in drinking/party activities. They purposefully made weekend trips to give us an alternative, which I do appreciate!)

They were excited to be able to invite me to their private party in a few weeks, and I was so grateful to have been accepted in so quickly again (I had to skip the meetings in the spring for a science lab). So I logged on facebook and saw the's a party completely centered around a drinking competition. I don't know what to do. I know I am not comfortable drinking, they assured me I don't have to drink at all, just come. But am I compromising my values and my faith by participating? I can't get the scriptures out of my head that blatantly warn against drunkenness:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
-Ephesians 5:18

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,
idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. -Galatians 5:19-21

I so badly want to build friendships around my Catholic faith, but I don't feel I click so well with this particular group (again...I know I posted about my disappointment here last fall too). I tell them I don't drink and it's like "you will someday". No I won't...maybe for health benefits and in very limited quantities, but never as a means of "entertainment".

But at the same time, are my standards too high? Am I now just taking pieces of scripture far too literally/seriously? Should I just go to the party and make friends? I just keep staring at the facebook invite and I simply cannot decide.

All suggestions welcome!
Much love,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Accountability Factor

I have greatly appreciated the feedback from my Catholic readers about my 2nd confession and the struggles I had after it. I have been pondering my post-confession emotions since the event (haha I need to stop over analyzing...but in this case I guess it was necessary) and tried to figure out why I was so uneasy about the whole thing. I prayed about it a lot...just to ease the shame that followed me like a dark cloud. But out of no where I got this inner voice-revelation moment, as if God was telling me "Now you see how grave sin is".

When I sin I should feel disgusted and ashamed, and sometimes I do, but for the most part I quickly ask for forgiveness in prayer and move on. But those "little" sins are not so little in the grand scheme of things. Lies here and there become habits, gossip can hurt those around you deeply, fighting with your parents creates divides, and so on and so forth. Not only do we harm ourselves and our neighbors, but we crucify our Savior each time we sin. He had to die for our selfishness, our evil choices, and for us to choose sin, literally kills Him. A lot of you already know this...and probably have an easier time controlling yourselves than I seem to. I kept telling myself "oh that sin is little, you'll do better next time", but the next time was normally not better.

On 19 Kids & Counting (my favorite go-to example), Josh made a comment that he needed to keep himself accountable and if he had a hard time with something, even something mental, he would quickly tell his parents so that sin did not get the best of him. This habit made him stay on his toes and always be mindful of his choices...or else he'd have to confess them to mom & dad.

At first this sounded stupid to me...I would never admit my sins to my parents, especially my deepest, darkest ones. I have (unfortunately) grown out of my guilt phase of childhood where I would feel compelled to unload my antics to my parents. In our culture, once you become an adult, you have more freedoms. "You've been "raised" now make the right decisions" philosophy. But usually, we "adults" go the opposite way...our freedom is like a secret lair and we can hide our wrongs without fear of any real consequence from mom & dad. No one has to know what we do, so why feel shame? It's secret!

But God still sees us.

So after seeing the priest the other night, I realized the Duggar form of accountability wasn't stupid, but essential to a true Christian walk. We should feel shameful when we sin, whether a big or small mistake, sin is a statement to God that you don't fear Him and you don't feel the need to follow His ways. That's heavy stuff!! How could we treat our Perfect, Blameless Creator in such a way without feeling extreme guilt? How are we not more mindful of our choices?

Because we cannot see God...He feels so distant sometimes that it's like mom or dad's backs are's ok to mess up. However, He is always watching...every single one of us at every single minute of the day (what an insane job!).

You have a way out of temptation ("No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
1 Corinthians 10:13) And when the time comes when the choice between sin and righteousness is too difficult to make, the idea of having to tell another person your decision is a powerful saving tool. No one wants to admit embarrassing details...and accountability prevents that. I finally understand. I guess I always have...but not to this extent, and now I can honestly say the payoff is big. I do feel lighter...I feel closer to my Savior because I now recognize the pain I caused Him. I needed that little bit of discomfort & embarrassment to appreciate His cross more. I feel re-directed and renewed. I just feel like a better version of myself...a better follower of Christ.

I am no where near perfect, none of us are. I know a lot of people who have given up on their salvation because they have already sinned so much...and have done so many disgusting things...that they think God will never accept them again, why bother? I just want to encourage everyone that you can and will be accepted again if you repent & confess. You may feel discouraged that you cannot stay on the straight & narrow either, as temptations are strong, but this whole new world of confession & accountability is life changing & life saving.

God wants us sinners, even the worst of us. He just wants us to realize what our choices do to Him. So wake up Catholics/Christians...this is a war, but we can triumph over it by the graces God has given us. Stay strong, stay mindful, stay accountable.

Love always,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Second Confession and College Blessings!

Hey guys! I have finally settled into college for my sophomore year...I cannot believe I was home for 3 months already...and I cannot comprehend how I completed 1/4 of my undergraduate degree! Crazy!

But anyways, I made a promise to myself to actively make friends...and not just any friends, but friends who will build me up spiritually and not pressure me to participate in the "ungodly activities". So on Monday, I met up with a boy I met last fall (we'll call him John*)...he is very religious, but we differed vastly on what Christianity was. At the time I was one foot in messianic Judaism and one foot in Catholicism...neither of which appealed to him. So we just went our separate ways (unintentionally) and met up later during finals. There we agreed to give our friendship a second chance, whether we agreed on theology or not. So...on Monday...haha sorry for rambling...he asked me to go to the Protestant club on campus and I was hesitant. He assured me I'd have fun and he promised to attend the Catholic ministry club if I went to his. So the deal was made and I was wondering what I could have gotten myself into...I just needed to pray over it.

What I got myself into was a whole lot of fun. The kids were so serious about their faith and it was evident that they lived Christianity day to day. I learned a lot about the differences in their churches (as they were finding out where the freshman should go on Sunday and in which carpool) and I had some good quality "fellowship" :) I was quite surprised by the sense of peace that came over me at the closing of the meeting...I may have just met some life long friends. John wanted to take things a step further and asked me to attend one church service with him...I am looking forward to seeing what it's like at a Protestant church, as I have never been outside of a Catholic Church, but at the same time he warned me people may try to convert me. I just don't want to deal with that...I know they mean well, but I have never been one to witness or express my faith in such a way and it is a little out of my comfort zone always having to defend myself and prove I am not a pagan.

So needless to say I came back to my dorm dumbfounded! My room mate and I have been itching to make friends since last year our dorm style/location made us pretty isolated, lonely college students. God had not only provided me with an outlet to make the friends I had been praying for, but He was also diligent to work on my social skills...I had almost no fear! I kept reciting: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10, as I walked to the meeting and everything just...worked. My words were not all jumbled like normal and I found it easy to carry a true conversation with complete strangers (very rare!)

So with spirits uplifted...I looked forward to my Catholic ministry meeting the following day. The thing was, I had a million things to accomplish before then. I prayed that God would find a way for me to fit everything in...because the times simply were not. I had to do work, eat, do yoga with my friend & her sister, and shower all before the meeting...and the yoga ended a half hour-ish before the meeting started, so I was flustered! But suddenly as the day progressed, things were falling into manageable time slots. (The yoga didn't even happen because my friend forgot their ID card and we ended up doing our own things.) This was another praise God moment (it doesn't sound as awesome on blogger, but if you were me, you would be blown away too! haha)

So I get to the meeting after not having gone all last semester. I had a geology lab during the club in the spring and failed to attend more than 1 or 2 meetings. One of my geology study buddies was really humorous, I just never thought we had anything in turns out, she's a religious Catholic! She had her first meeting tonight and I was just shocked. She was shocked too because she thought I was Jewish...even though we never discussed religion...ever haha. Not only did the entire club remember me, they were very welcoming. I feared they had a bad impression of me from last fall, I seemed a little aloof/shy...who knows what else. But that was another weight off my shoulders!

As I talked to my geology her Cara*, I admitted I had never gone to confession...since my first confession, and was feeling a deep call to go. I was nervous though and didn't know the process...she was in disbelief that I hadn't ever been and told me not to worry, that she'd guide me through it. The meeting itself went well, lots of worship through prayer, singing, chatting, etc. I was loving it! Then at the end, I approached the attending priest. I explained my confession dilemma...and yet again was looked at as if I had 2 heads...and he took me away to confess. I was so nervous and he was assuring me it wasn't going to be bad. He did a general confession...since my sins were so vast and uncountable. I have to admit I was very embarrassed going through this process. I told him things I haven't even told my mom...things I don't want to admit to myself. I tried not to sound vulgar...not to protect my dignity...and I just felt so vulnerable.

He was a very nice priest and he made the confession simple and overall not so bad...but I never had that "phew!" moment. As I walked back to my dorm, I felt naked...embarrassed...and no more forgiven than 10 minutes prior. I don't want to down play this important sacrament! But these are my raw, true feelings as a returning Catholic and I don't know what to make of them. I feel even more guilty for not feeling happy right now! I just cannot shake this lingering feeling shame almost? Do confessions get easier? Am I just feeling this way because I let this all go for so long? And then I worry that I left out some very important sins, even though he said I have been totally forgiven.

I also dread seeing him that he knows my baggage. I actually feel sorry that he has to hear confessions because there is a lot of guilt, anger, and sadness that go along with these sins we must be difficult to hear everyday how far we have fallen...even the young 19 year old college kids. I almost cried during it because I was so angry and ashamed at how stupid I sounded...all the wrong choices I made...and because he was a very inspiring speaker and I felt God's words of comfort seeping into me.

So I'd love to hear your experiences with confession...have you ever just had a bad one? Haven't you ever been embarrassed, especially if you have to see the priest on a regular basis? I really need some comfort right now. I am so happy I did it, and relieved I can honestly get the Eucharist without blemish, but Satan's still here bombarding my head with foolish thoughts and emotions.

Please pray for me, not only for my current situation, but that it gets easier!
Glory be to God,

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Vacation Part 3: The Interview

Sorry this took so long, I have been packing for school all week, taking care of the fam since my momma broke her foot, & visiting my gram at the hospital. It's been a crazy couple of days...I'm exhausted already and the worst is yet to come...homeworkk!!! :O haha oh well part of life. I am excited to go back, but I'm a wee bit nervous. I need to break out of my shy box and meet good Christians & Catholics...I need to actively seek them out and not accept foolish company, because I too became a fool last semester. Prayers Please!

So here it goes: The Interview.

My brother & I were walking the boardwalk while on one of our many escapes from the vacation house. I saw this demonstration going on and I was intrigued...the man was using bright neon paints and I wanted to see what he was doing. Before I could see, a little girl ran up to me and asked me if I had gotten one of her pamphlets yet, and I couldn't help but smile and accept it. She was so cute! When I looked at the pamphlet, it said "Where will you spend eternity?". I was naturally loving it, I wanted to stay and watch! But my brother groaned and basically made it clear he was not going to be bothered by these people.

I just kept walking with him because I didn't want to make him annoyed or anything...but on the way back I stopped to listen to the tail end of the man's speech. It literally ended a minute later and we started walking again, but this woman ran after us...she had smiled at me in the crowd, but I figured she was just an audience member. She gave me another pamphlet and asked me what religion I was most familiar with. HA! I was "in heaven", but you could see the discomfort on my brother's face, he wanted out.

The woman was excited to hear I was "most familiar" with Christianity, and she proceeded to ask where I fellowshipped. Uhh?? I think that just means where do I go to church? So that introduced my faith-I explained I was Catholic & went to my local parish. And then I could see the smile on her face lessen (lol! I knew it was coming...but I thought she may have just accepted that we were both believers in Jesus...)

She told me how she and her pastor had done tons of research on my church and that there were things I "needed to know". Even though I had heard many of her arguments before. The few I was baffled by were as follows:

1. The Church does not teach purgatory anymore

She said her sister sends her kids to Catholic school and they refuse to teach this doctrine now. Uhm...I was unfamiliar with this? I thought it was still well in practice? She asked me to explain the doctrine to her, and I did, saying that at death, we being sinners cannot just walk into God's presence tainted by our evil...we need a period of cleansing to enter the pure loving presence of our Lord. It's not an evil place...and not just anyone can get into purgatory.

2. Purgatory is corrupt

On EWTN one show covered this-they said how only true believers can even get into purgatory, because they are already on their way to the heaven. This woman acted like any Joe-shmo can be in, and then, hopefully, his family will pay his way into heaven...WHAT?!! Pay??? I was soooo confused! I think she meant that in the middle ages, when the church suffered much corruption, many priests sold indulgences, promising the dead would be released to heaven? No matter what was true, she asked me how Jesus' sacrifice was even meaningful if we need to be cleansed of sin in purgatory...what purpose was His blood then? And that was where I was confused...I have never doubted the saving power of Christ's blood & sacrifice on the cross, but why isn't that sufficient itself? Anyone care to help a girl out over here? I totally dislike not being able to explain these things.

3. Purgatory didn't exist until the late 1800's because the Church needed money for statues

She then said Catholics created purgatory in the 1800's to raise money to buy statues...I think I just remember my mouth being agape because I didn't know how to respond. She assured me this was only her research and that she could be wrong...and I insisted she was. I was a little heartbroken that that was what some people are being taught about the RCC...who could even spread that information? At this point I realized I NEEDED to make a post about this for my protestant readers...because this was the kind of misinformation that creates tension between us and it's unnecessary. The woman then asked me if I thought Catholic art and statues was an ok practice...she reminded me how much we could do with that money to help charities. I did appreciate her concern here, but when you look at the facts, the RCC does help the poor, sick, orphaned, etc everyday in every country. There are so many Catholic relief funds & charities...perhaps our money spent on art could be useful elsewhere, but it's part of our tradition and worship to have beautiful help us ponder the immense beauty that is our Lord and His creation.

4. Our Bibles are the same, read the Bible and see how false the RCC is

Well...I don't know what she meant by this because our Bibles are not the same. After the Reformation I believe, Protestants removed many books from the old testament (the apocrypha) that the Catholics retained. I believe the Jews removed these books from their Torah because they were not originally written in Hebrew and, thus, were not accepted as divinely inspired. But no matter what, the Bible that was compiled from the beginning was the Catholic Bible and in fact it proves how all Catholic doctrine is biblical because they made the Bible and drew from it!

She concluded with say how she loves us and how in the end we are both believers in the trinity and that was what matters. She encouraged me to always be researching & learning because when we die, we won't have our priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, etc with us on the day of judgment. We won't be able to say "well he taught me this...". And that's VERY true. We won't have help on that day, it'll just be us & God. Scary reality, but it made me think a little. Even though my brother was annoyed by this experience I was elated! Not only did she get to witness, but in a way, I felt like I did too. I liked the dialogue we shared, teaching each other truths of our own respective faiths and not being mean or impatient with each other over the differences. Sure I was appalled by what she had been taught, but I know it wasn't her fault entirely. I'm learning to not take these accusations personally anymore, and that is a trait I need to have.

We're all a little be lost on this journey, I understand completely!
That's why I think this blog is still useful in a way.
Dialogue between all faiths is key, so lets always be willing to talk & learn.

Peace always my dears!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Next Food Network Star Finale!

I don't know if any of you watch this show, but my mom and I simply adore it! We loveeee cooking together and the ideas these people have are incredible! Tonight is sadly the finale and I believe it just the winner is announced, but we DVR-ed it and haven't seen it yet so I am still in the dark :D
We are rooting for Aarti: she is competing for her own food channel show and her theme is Indian cuisine with an American twist. (The Spice Goddess and Aarti were our inspirations when we tried the dal recipe recently) This is something unique since many of the other contestants ideas have already been "done". We have yet to try her recipes, but I will post them here after I watch.(I don't want to ruin the surprise for myself!) Supposedly they are superb, and I am inclined to believe the judges because boy can they be brutal!

Aarti is also a Christian, something I learned from reading her bio last night on the food network website. She quoted scripture once in the show and I was quite pleased to hear that. So refreshing to hear someone speak about their faith on cable television ;)

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (In Regards to Christians & Gossip)

So the title is pretty thorough today, as I will cover topics on the feast day of August 15th, which is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and how this feast can be applied to our everyday lives as Catholics & Christians. I was so very inspired today at mass---not only because I had to miss church last week for the vacation (+dun dun dun+ part 3 coming soon!), but also because I just needed time with my Lord in the Eucharist.

Now this one church I go to usually disappoints because the priest "does us a favor" by making his homilies super short (c'mon gimme the meat & potatoes! I want a long inspiring pep talk to marinade in all week :D) But today his sermon was quite deep and the whole time he spoke I was thinking "wow this will appeal to Catholic & Christian readers both...especially us lady folk!" And surprisingly so, as it is the
feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and thus the whole sermon revolved guessed it...Mary, the controversial figure for many Protestants.

So I don't remember everything I wanted to write due to the fact I had to do some back to school shopping and then whip up some homemade veggie burgers (if they're good, I'll post the recipe). So in one of the readings from mass today (Luke 1:39-56 to be exact) we come across the magnificat in which Mary says:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the empty with good things
and the rich He has sent empty away.

He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spok
e to
our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever."

Here we see that Mary was once an average Jewish woman, one we could call humble and lowly compared to others. By God's grace, he blessed her and made her great. Mary tells us that God will exalt all the faithful, of "low degree", who fear Him (not to the extent of Mary...she was the vessel to hold our Savior!) and bless us with "good things" out of His pure, abundant love & mercy. Tyrants & Kings have enormous amounts of power, they need not fear anyone. But the "lowly" recognize power and they fear the Lord, for who has more power than He? This promise is sort of a blessing in itself, as we followers in Christ now have a reason to hope & a reason to keep at this spiritual journey we are on...God will bless us if we do!

Now we are all sinners and we can all get on each other's nerves. Sometimes this leads us to gossip, and while gossip doesn't seem harmful, we must realize how much damage we are truly doing when we do not guard our tongues. When God distributes His blessings & gifts on the poor & lowly, He does so out of mercy, not because any one of us deserves it. We are exalted in Christ, yet gossip tears us down in the eyes of those listening. The person who gossips not only blinds himself to the goodness & blessings within the one he gossips about, but he also blinds his audience, those taking in the gossip (because those people now have tarnished view of that person). So as the priest explained, when you gossip, you rob your brothers and sisters in Christ of this promise & blessing Mary gave to the faithful followers of her Son. And consequently, through gossip, both parties are made poor and lowly again.

We need to stop trying to rob each other of our blessings...stop trying to destroy people with our words, even when they hurt us. Encourage each other and lift each other up rather than bring each other down. We are exalted by the Cross...the very sacrifice paid to save our souls. So honor that Cross and keep in mind Mary's words--God will have mercy if you fear Him and He will fill us with blessings and lift us up!

I hope your (feast) day is a blessed one!
Peace & Blessings be with you all,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Vacation Part 2

So we left off with my spirits lifted and hope in my heart. I was going to make this vacation enjoyable, and offer up all my suffering to God. As the week progressed, my brother and I would take our daily walks and beach trips when we had "time off", but they were short lived. The girl also had older siblings who I was never close to. Suddenly, one of the brothers wanted to tag along with us and take us places (he had a car), so we did...being polite and all.

I'm such a shy person, so this sudden addition was a rough adjustment. When I am nervous, I tend to just smile and give short answers/partake in bouts of small talk. When taking to this guy, it was obvious quick how little my brother and I had in common with him. He was fiercely sarcastic, a trait I tend to find rude when it becomes someone's entire personality. He also liked to brag about the bad stuff he does while at college and how he dated a girl, moved on to her younger sister, and then moved on to her youngest sister! I was not impressed by any of this and I frankly said "wow that's awful" on multiple occasions, as none of his shenanigans were amusing.

I then noticed him trying to spend time with us when we were unwinding for the night. He was around way too much. I already had to spend hours with the younger siblings, entertaining them, and now I felt like I had an obligation to spend time with him (and I enjoyed his company the least of everyone!) He started brushing the hair out of my face which I was not comfortable with and this progressed to "accidentally" touching my thigh. I would move away and he would do it again...and again. By this point I had enough. My brother and I tried leaving the property without telling anyone where we were going and yet this guy would catch up to us. We made a coffee run, and to my displeasure, he asked me if I had a boyfriend.

This was truly surreal, I was beyond discomfort at this point and on the verge of disgust. I disclosed this information to my mom, trying to seek out advice. She knows how conservative I am and how these things were not acceptable boy-girl interactions for me. Still we wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. My standards are not the world's standards and this could be simply innocent to him...maybe this is how he treats all his friends...who happen to be female.

So I decided to avoid him. I prayed a lot, I was so confused, why would God make this already difficult vacation worse for me? I shut my door for bed one night and was reading & highlighting my Bible (as it was my quiet time with God) and I heard him enter our house. He asked my brother where I was and he told him I was already in bed. Phew! I was so grateful to my brother. Then I heard a knock at my door and the guy walks in! All I could think of was WHAT PLANET AM I ON RIGHT NOW?! How was this ok!? He then proceeded to SHUT MY DOOR, us alone in a room. I started to get nervous, so I told him I was going to bed, yet he kept trying to make conversation. He looked through my books, spotted my Bible, and then sat on my bed.

I flung my covers off, jumped out of bed and left the room. I told everyone in the house who wasn't my family to leave. I had had it! I didn't care what the trials were, if God was trying to teach me something through this, etc. I was done and I wanted to go home.

Last night we said our goodbyes (I was relieved they were leaving a day before us). This guy still wasn't giving up, he tried to pull me aside to talk, which I did not indulge him with, and then he hugged me...and his hands slipped down to touch my rear end. I was just so sad at this point, I felt so violated-physically and emotionally. I'm upset just writing this. How could someone be so dense? Despite all the troubles I had at his family's camp, I never had a problem with the family directly. All that is shattered now. I have no desire to return to the camp or to go on this vacation with them next year. I want to cut off all ties with them, which I know isn't right or the proper solution.


The only positive thing I have to say about this part of the segment is that I have made an official promise to myself now that I will only date (hopefully court!!) Catholic/Christian men. Perhaps God saw my temptations to leave the flock in finding I admit I strayed a bit mentally. I met some awesome guys at school who had no real religious affiliation and I toyed with the idea of making exceptions in my love life because a part of me still liked to get attention from boys-something good Christian men don't show you. I have been praying all summer for God to cleanse me of this inner sin before college started up again so that I didn't slip up when faced with challenging temptations-especially in the lust/dating department! Needless to say, I received a lot of attention this vacation-none of it wanted or appreciated. The more I got, the more I was filled with an unquenchable disgust for not only him, but the sinful nature of this world and how people my age conduct themselves.

Please pray for me. I'm still trying to cope with this experience and I am actively trying to forgive this guy in my heart. I don't think he realizes that I am even angry or that he crossed a line when it comes to my convictions (heck, he may not even understand how seriously I take my Catholic identity!). Since I work at his camp, we are friends on facebook, should I delete him? And should I avoid working at this camp or going on this vacation from now on? I really want to...I just don't want to cause any drama between the families, as they won't understand my p.o.v and convictions like you all do.
(wow this was long, thanks for reading it!!)

Peace be with you all,
your sister in Christ.

Ps- Vacation Part 3 is going to be happy and deals with religious dialogue between Protestant (a lady I met) and Catholic (me!) believers!

The Vacation (+dun dun dun+) Part 1

Hello my lovelies, I am finally home and oh so relieved to be back! Normally I dread coming home from vacation, but this week was just not for me. School is just around the corner (next week! gah!) and the last thing I really wanted to do was go away. I wanted to be with my friends from home before school starts and see my extended family, you know, the little things!

But alas, every year my family takes this trip to the beach...with another family. We've known this family for about 10 years and they're very nice people, but as kids grow up into adults, personalities that once fit can start to clash. I do volunteer work for this family, as their daughter has a rare tragic disability. They have a whole camp for children and adults who suffer from this disease and I like to do what I can for them. Now as a result of the isolation and suffering of this disability, some of the kids seem to have emotional issues. I don't know if it's really attributed to their lifestyle, or if it's a reflection on their home life, but I have had my fair share of being verbally abused by these kids, sexually harassed by these kids, and drained by the stress and frustrations it takes to just volunteer.

Over the years, the experiences I have dealt with at this camp have made me a bit bitter. Just interacting with the campers makes me so thankful I have been given so many blessings from God, but at the same time I don't know how to reconcile my anger. I know many of them don't realize the hurt they put others through, as their pain is so significant itself, but if it were any other healthy teenager, their behavior would be classified as atrocious and unacceptable. For the most part I see past their disability because I have grown up around this particular family, and so I hold them to a higher degree than maybe I should.

So as we drove to this vacation, after just having finished volunteering at the camp a week prior, I was already in a weird place. I wanted to relax and enjoy the beach, but I also realized I had an obligation to help with their daughter and I just wasn't "up" for it (which I am ashamed to admit!) This girl is a year younger than me, but you'd never be able to tell. We were always so close when we were younger because I found her fascinating, she was so creative! Her imagination was surreal and really put my artistic "prowess" to shame. As we grew up, I started to separate my imagination from reality more and more, whereas she seemed to sink deeper and deeper into hers. For her, the line separating reality from her dream world is blurred and I don't think she can tell the difference between them anymore.

I wish I could say I enjoy spending time with her, but it's really difficult. The hours spent with her are always an attempt to keep her safe-both physically and emotionally. On top of that, I had to play a babysitter role a lot to her 6 year old brother (who can be quite the manipulator! Little boys can be a handful!!)

The thing is, I wanted to spend the last few weeks with my family. I wanted to treasure our time together and not have to spread myself thin just to keep these kids entertained. By mid-week I was just so frustrated! That was when I wrote up my last post. Immediately afterwords, I prayed for patience and compassion, manned up, and just hung out with her. I let her tell me stories about school (which were all fabricated tales-interesting in their own right though) and we had dinner together. I think she enjoyed me giving her advice about school and all those teenage/girly things and I felt a real peace in my heart.

Jesus never promised me vacation time in my life, but He did promise me trials and commanded me to have a servant's heart. So by taking up my cross and serving this creation of His, I did see my vacation brightening up!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mid-Vaca Update

This vacation has been not as relaxing as I had hoped, but it's definitely a God given trial. I'm learning so much about receiving each day with thanksgiving, even though I know I'll be doing things I don't want to do. I need to look past my own frustrations and desires and see the blessings around me, or I will miss out on them. He is faithful to send me blessings, even in little things like the landscape/views, time with loved ones, & good food!, and I seem to focus on the bad or the "hard".

So out with the negativity and in with the joy! (If only it were so easy...!) I'm trying, but I cannot say I enjoy what I have to do (or would want to do this again...) and I feel guilty about that. I want to serve God, but sometimes things seem so unfair.

Update: (wow that was fast! haha) I had a mini revelation, God is so Good!! In a moment of expected frustration, my heart was softened and I think I was truly of use to someone. We serve an awesome God, so when the going gets tough, always know our prayers are tougher! More on this whole ordeal when I get back.

Please keep me in your prayers,
I just want a better attitude and a servant's heart.
Love always,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Salvation & Where it Lies

All this contraception talk & advice has got me thinking heavily about the varieties of opinions we have within the Body of Christ. Christians are all united in the belief of Jesus Christ, yet we struggle to agree on little points here and there, and this causes little splits within the once unified Body to occur...and ultimately this was what happened to the RCC & the Reformation.

I absolutely adore the richness of the Catholic faith and how much wisdom & nourishment I have received since returning, but I also love Protestant takes on certain subjects. I enjoy watching TBN sometimes, reading Christian blogs, reading/watching Christian encouragement from preachers like Joel Osteen or Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron. And sometimes I feel a little guilty because these people do criticize Catholic teaching & sometimes even question the salvation of Catholics. But on the flip side...I keep being told "there is no salvation outside of the Church". I have always struggled with this teaching...I don't know how sound it is to begin with (correct me if I have been misinformed).

The only truly religious young people I know at school are Protestants, and my cousins who have been dealing with a huge tragedy have all seemed to find comfort outside the RCC and in Protestant churches. I can't blame many people for leaving the faith because the churches (in my area) do a poor job of explaining the faith & making it accessible to this generation. On top of that, I feel like Protestants reach out more to people (though sometimes this can be a bad trait). But then I get frustrated because I cannot discuss Catholic topics with them, or they point out the "wrong" parts of my faith and how that's not Biblical. I hate the fact that I always have to be defending, rather than growing & learning.

And when I allow all these thoughts to swirl around in my brain, I come to the point of exhaustion: why does it matter?

Who cares where someone finds a deeper faith in Christ, as long as they are being truly nourished? What it all comes down to is that Jesus commanded us to love God and accept Him as the messiah & savior, then we will be saved. So why do the churches (Catholic & Protestant) have to attack one another? Why can't salvation alone unite us? We all have different ideas & opinions on authority over the faithful, on contraception, on scripture, etc because we're humans & we are imperfect creatures. God promised hell wouldn't prevail over the church, but we will always be lead astray & it is impossible to say who is wrong & who is right because we're all sinners.

I just sooo wish we could be One in Christ again.
Peace & Love,

(ps- I will be taking a short leave for a family vacation. enjoy the summer!)

Attention: Content in Christ Giveaway!

I have been made aware of not only a great blog for Christian encouragement, but of a fancy little giveaway. 17 year old blogger, Lindsay, of Content in Christ is having an Etsy giveaway in which one lucky participant will receive a beautiful handbag/tote of their choice. I am so floored by these bags, as I have tried, and failed, at making projects like these :P

Well this motivates me to take those sewing classes I have been meaning to sign up for...I really do value this skill and envy all those who have mastered it already. Teach me your ways!!!!! haha!

Well peace & love always,
don't forget to check out her blog!

Monday, August 2, 2010

NFP & Contraception

This may turn out to be a short post, as I have some baking to do and just not all that much to say. I'm at a weird place in my walk because I haven't been able to avoid the question of birth control and contraception use in the life of a (married) Christian. For those who do not know, the Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraception within a marriage. Married couples are to respect the ultimate reason we are able to have sex: to produce offspring, and we are not to inhibit this process in anyway, as it is disrespectful to God's design and to life itself. They do endorse NFP (natural family planning) to space the number of kids-this technique follows the woman's cycle, as to avoid her most fertile days (from what I gather, I am no expert!)

Now I watch a lot of EWTN and they have had many programs, comments, and references to respecting life in all its forms-whether that be on the topic of abortion or even married couples planning families. I never really paid much attention to the latter because I am only 19. I have no spouse & no potential boyfriend, so children are obviously the last thing on my mind. However, I am very pro-life. It truly rips at my heart when I hear how many abortions take place in the USA in a single many (not all! I still don't know where I stand when it comes to rape and incest...the trauma involved is so intense, I'm sure anyone would consider aborting :/) situations, abortion is the easy way out. This laziness and self-centeredness is like a plague in our society and we have become desensitized to the utter disregard for life. But, on many of these Catholic shows I have also seen a very serious disdain for birth control/contraceptive users as well and it boggles my mind a bit.

I need to use birth control for medical reasons and I cannot help but feel guilty and fearful for the future. Even when I am married I think I may need it, but then again I don't know how long I want to be on it anyway. I know the Church allows it for medical purposes, but there are so many factors to consider and I am just a confused mess. And it makes me think: Do I even believe in this rule? Why is it so bad to control the size of a family this way? (If everyone throughout history didn't use some sort of BC we'd all have tons of kids and who knows what the world would look like now because of it)

As we all know I am a HUGE 19 Kids & Counting fan. The Duggar family believes in trusting God to control the size of their family and thus they use absolutely no birth control. I love this series, the family is so beautiful, but I know I could never do that myself. And now, as I am a returned Catholic, this topic has a whole new meaning and an added importance. I need to figure this out because it could be hard to reconcile in the future when I am married. So why is this a rule in the Church? I find it hard to trust NFP because many women don't have regular cycles (myself included) so there could be a huge chance for error there (not that children are errors!).

Do any of you, regardless of faith, follow this rule of no contraception? Does the thought of possibly having 10+ kids scare you? I would like to hear all opinions-even if you think this is an utterly ridiculous way to create a family...I am open to all thoughts & criticisms!

Love always,