Monday, December 31, 2012

The Most Inspiring Moment I Experienced in 2012

The place: my living room
The time: just before nap time
The company: the prettiest girl I know, my 2 year old niece Grace

Gracie found some soft blankets and asked me to lay on the floor with her to take a (pretend) nap. We snuggled up in stadium blankets (featuring our favorite NFL teams) with baby burp cloths under our heads. After a few times repeating the conversation "So how was your day? So what did you do today?" Gracie jumped up and pointed at the ceiling.

"The sky is so high! I am going to jump very high and jump up there."

I laughed. "Go for it," I encouraged her anticipating the lesson I'd give her on gravity, height, and the impossibility of her tiny self jumping to touch the 7 ft ceiling. She hopped and let out a big sigh. "You missed!" I told her, "You are too small."

"No," she replied, "I can touch it. I have to jump very high."

Attempt #2 was just like the first. It won't work," I told her, "You'll need help to do it." "No," she answered me. "I can jump and touch the sky that is very high. I just have to keep trying. I can do it, Justine. I just have to try again."

I love her. Grace, here's to you and never giving up. You taught me a big lesson. I love you very much little princess. :)

"Pictures" = photoshop: one of our bonding activities :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stress less in 2013

We made it! We are still alive after the infamous Mayan calendar scare and hopefully all of us survived the holiday craziness (that one's always a little more iffy... I guess I shouldn't speak too soon). As things hopefully wind down, you are getting a chance to relax. As I was spending time with my feet up, browsing Pintrest, I happened upon this pin with a list of 55 ways to relax... and I liked it! So even if you'd rather save this until jobs, papers, exams, or whatever else gets on a roll after the holiday season, this list will be here for future reference. I'l honestly be using it for the next couple of weeks... we have so much going on!

A day late and a dollar short, Merry Christmas and if I don't post before then, happy new year. :)


55 gentle ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy busy busy




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beauty comes from within

SOOOO... because I totally overcommit myself and never get around to anything I actually WANT to do until much later, I finally spent some time reading a blog of a friend of mine... and one entry was particularly awesome. Gabe... my bad for taking so long.

However, the timing worked out stupendously! I read this great post about beauty (and princesses!!) right after I posted mine, and it is the perfect post to follow mine. Especially knowing it was written by a man, it is super duper hopeful and affirming. If y'all get the chance, check out Beauty Speaks in Stories.

Here's a teaser for the article I'm talking about... click for more!

Beauty Speaks in Stories: Fairy Stories: Tale As Old As Time (Part 1 of 2): Part 1: Belle. "Beautiful."  She represents what every woman already is: beautiful.  Most women don't believe this.  Hiding behind masks, t...

...this kinda goes with the theme too. Not really, but kinda. Enough. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ugliness can be more than skin deep.

I am on this huge health kick right now and I love it. Eating more healthy (the right foods and correct portion sizes) paired with regular exercise have got me feeling more energized, in a better mood, and has given me a significant confidence boost. There's nothing like the feeling of a morning workout followed by a cool shower, a tiny bit of makeup and a Pintrest inspired outfit (my favorites!). It feels good to feel like looking good, you know?



There is a danger though, that can easily attach itself to new motivation or inspiration to take care of one's body: vanity. We constantly see "perfect women" strutting their stuff on the Victoria's Secret fashion show runway (no, I did NOT watch it, nor do I encourage it... I have a story about that to share at a later date), or women who have clearly taken the Barbie doll physique as an ideal waaaay too far like the women on Real Housewives or Sin City Rules, etc. My Pintrest homepage and the "Popular" tab are covered with pictures of petite women with six back abs and a ridiculous booty, all with captions that say "motivation" or "goal body." For all of the women (this can apply to men too) out there who were not born with the "ideal" frame or body type, this can be more discouraging than encouraging. Even when said "goal" is reached, it never really ends, because the pursuit of perfection is like trying to catch a cloud and pin it down... you're never going to get there.

In articles, talks, inspirational CD's, retreats, and all of these wonderful places, we are commonly reminded, "you are beautiful!" And YOU ARE! But don't let it go to your head. And by that I mean, with great beauty comes great responsibility. Beauty is designed by God to draw the eye, the mind, and the heart to awe, to truth, and to love. Losing sight of the purpose of beauty means losing sight of the beauty that counts... and you can't buy that at a department store, drugstore, or sweat for it in the gym.

Taking it one step further, what does it look like when someone loses the sight of what it is supposed to mean to be beautiful? Girls who get lost in themselves, in self-centerdness, in insecurity, in what other people think... and not in a healthy way. Instead of leading hearts toward the goodness that inspires their confidence, their sense of self-worth, they earn themselves pity and companions and escorts who find it difficult to find the "real woman" behind the mask.

Yes, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, but we must not forget that beauty is written into our SOULS just because we exist. We were created with the sole purpose of loving and praising our Lord, and that joy is what turns heads and inspires contagious smiles. In our loving, in our tenderness, in our grace, in our modesty, we emulate beauty, Vanity is the ultimate enemy of the praise, and as sisters in Christ, we can together answer the call to love, to give, and to share... as cheesy as it sounds (especially in this holiday season). In turn, we can lift this culture, these images, and these hearts to a degree of perfection we will find no where else. Ladies, let us love, in truth, in goodness, and in beauty.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

‎"Always say I love you. You are made to love. Love freely. Love well."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Modesty in Action

One of the characteristics of this particular blog is that it is by women (a woman, with contributors) for women (or just single people, or interested people, or whoever wants to read it... I'm thinking of you, gentlemen readers). But I have very little input from the guys, which I loved to hear in high school and college, especially when I began my search for true femininity (see my first blog, Search for True Feminism).

I am working on a post specifically for this blog with input from the men (coming soon!), here is a fabulous article from a blog about modesty BY men to tide you over and provide some valuable input. This particular article was brought to my attention by a dear friend of mine and I would be remiss if I did not share.

As well as more articles I am working on, I also have a brand-new project I'm launching soon! Teaser: coffee, class, and the best version of yourself. More info to come!



Modesty in Action



While action, like clothing is more a sign of modesty than the thing itself, it is perhaps the most important, and often neglected and misunderstood. The variations here are probably more varied and subtle than when it comes to clothing, because action springs more directly from one’s interior disposition than clothing does.
To begin with, let me clarify that by action I mean all of a person’s actions, not just those relating to some aspect of sexuality. Not pole-dancing makes your actions as modest as not kicking beggars makes them charitable. As I said in a previous post, modesty is a positive virtue. It is something you do, not a list of things you don’t do. In terms of action, it is a way of bearing oneself, a way of interacting with others. Ultimately this is determined by how a woman sees herself on the inside. The problem today is that women have been tricked to think one of two things: that their highest goal is to be desirable to men, or that they should actually be men (or sometimes both at the same time, look at any female super-hero). This just gets messy.
To illustrate that women are not in fact men, I would like to talk about the different way men and women create influence. Men create influence through outside resources—tools. Whichever guy has the biggest stick, be it money, or strength or followers or in some cases an actual stick, has the most power. This is clear in any place with a lot of men. When the CEO or general walks in, everyone gravitates towards him, not because of who he is, but because of what he controls. Women on the other hand don’t need a stick to have authority. They just do. Imagine Sandra Bullock walking into the same room. All of a sudden everyone in the room, including the general or the CEO are at her disposal, not because of what she carries—she has no authority or material claim over them, but because who she is somehow demands respect. You don’t have to be famous to evoke that respect though, you simply have to carry yourself right.
Women know this. But they trouble is a lot of them forget why they’re owed respect, and they think they have to carry around a stick just like the guys. The thing is, women weren’t meant to operate by threat of force, and women who forget that never seem quite secure or comfortable using whatever “stick” they have, but they don’t know how to command respect in any other way so they just use it all the more in a downward spiral. In they end, men just find them ridiculous or obnoxious. Remember, you’re owed respect because God made you, not because if you don’t get it you’ll complain the loudest or get even.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"And a happy holidays to you!"


The following letter was sent in by an anonymous reader who clearly has something to share!

Dear fellow citizens of this planet,

I am writing to wish you a pleasant holiday season, full of goodness, kindness, and sharing. My you be comforted by warmth, sparkles, and nice feelings.  Take care that your holiday does not offend anyone and remember the golden rule. I hope Santa Clause (excuse me, Mr. or Ms. Clause) brings you things that make your life more convenient. Don’t forget to buy things for the people you like so you can stay on the nice list! We can look to the good example of the historical role model Jesus who taught is how to be kind to others before he started making people feel bad. Celebrate your freedom to be happy and not offended on this day of celebration of whatever is important to you. I hope this holiday brings you tolerance, emotional security and anything else you desire.  I wish you have a good time with your family bonding around the holiday tree and topping the tree with whatever is most important to you. Maybe start a slideshow with your ipad! Make all of your holiday dreams come true… as long as they don’t offend anyone. Be yourself, just like everyone else.

Carpe diem,

P. C. Wellwisher


Saturday, December 1, 2012

A song for you!

I could never let myself get away with the previous post without adding the song :)


Thursday, November 29, 2012

All I want for Christmas is you

All right everyone, it's that time of year again. The leaves are off the trees, cute sweaters are replaced with heavy winter coats, everyone's eating leftover turkey sandwiches, and Black Friday shopping wounds are starting to heal. "It's the most wonderful time of the year," as our Christmas songs proclaim. And the celebration of Jesus' birth, family time, and the overall spirit of holiday cheer and generosity are something that should be held near and dear.

This is not a post about the true meaning of Christmas. This is a sympathetic post about a mutual understanding that the holiday season is romantic, and not everyone has that special someone to kiss under the mistletoe. Lord knows my Christmas wish some years was just that next year I'd have my one & only to toast with at Christmas parties, but sometimes that's just how the gingerbread man crumbles. However, this is not a time at all to get lost in nostalgia for that which might someday be or whatever (which people tend to do around Valentine's day as well), but this is a time to celebrate love, life, and another year of JOY!

This year, instead of being distracted by the couples getting cute little sleigh rides for two, count your blessings. This usually has a negative connotation, as it naturally fits in a sermon to complaining children. But for realzies, it works!

Thanksgiving is not the only season for giving thanks. If there's any time to do it, it's the end of the year. Looking back on what I've accomplished this year, I am proud and thankful for all of the opportunities that have been given to me, all of the friendships I have made, and gifts that I will always, always hold close to my heart. I hope that each and every one of you, dear readers, can look back on this year and not only see the hurt, loneliness, heartache, and trials, but also the little joys and blessings in disguise... of course, as well as the big things.

This is probably my favorite time of year (autumn when the leaves change and the sun is out but the air is crisp is up there too, but that's besides the point). Families and friends come together to share in a tradition of loving selflessly, to an extent that often overflows to gift-giving and works of mercy. It is beautiful, heartwarming, and inspiring. As are you! Singleness is nothing to be scoffed at, especially during a season that encourages cuddling, cocoa, and catching snowflakes on your nose. This year as the commercials for diamond rings and lovers sharing eskimo kisses by fireplaces run on primetime, take a slow, deep breath of winter and get geared up for holiday mayhem and joyfully usher in a new year full of change, hope, and promise.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bucket List

Hello Readers!

This blog is all about bettering yourself, growing as an individual, setting goals, and not being afraid of not dating. On my other blog, Cataloging the Search for True Feminism, I posted my bucket list. Sometimes when you write things down or say them out loud, it makes them more finite, and especially with goals that I hope to accomplish at some point in my life, there is no time to start like the present!


I debated placing my list of hopefully future accomplishments on the side margin of this blog like I did last time, but I noticed with the widget I used there was no strike through feature, so I couldn't even cross them off as I went! Until further notice (or unless any of you other bloggers can help a neophyte like me), I am just going to list my items here and come back to cross them off as I accomplish them.


I think it is important to set goals, to work towards a purpose, as I have mentioned many times before. Creating a bucket list can be a ton of fun, dreaming of things like "attend a royal wedding" or "own a Ferrari." As entertaining as it is to come up with anything I could ever possibly desire with the sky as the limit, I like to think I am a little more on the practical side. For my own bucket list, I tried to pick things that might actually happen... that way I could set tangible or small goals and work towards eventually crossing them off of the list.


Nobody likes to be told what to do, so I am merely throwing this out there as a fun and motivating suggestion to self-motivate and remind yourself of the richness of life and the wonderful things you are capable of... it's an extraordinary eye opener!


So without further ado,


JUSTINE'S BUCKET LIST:


  • Be someone's hero
  • Be the belle of the ball
  • Drive stick shift
  • Eat a baguette in France
  • Eat pizza in Sicily
  • Get kissed on a Ferris wheel
  • Go ice skating
  • Host a cocktail party
  • Join a book club
  • Learn French
  • Learn Spanish
  • Live in the south
  • Make it through a life-size maze
  • Paint a masterpiece
  • Play tennis
  • Run a half marathon
  • See a Broadway show
  • Solve a mystery
  • Write a book


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Maybe It's Me

I have a confession for all of you: I love Taylor Swift's songs. People remind me all of the time that she writes about high school drama, makes something out of nothing, and is always whining about a messy breakup or empowering herself after dumping Joe Shmo for the last time. Whatever... they're catchy! I admire that she uses her music to express herself, writing her own stuff, and sings about real things. And she's managed to stay a pretty good influence, despite the crazy showbiz whirlwind her life must be. Good for her.

As much as I enjoy her catchy tunes, this someecard got me thinking:


I understand that great music, poetry, prose, art, etc comes from heartbreak in one way or another. So yes, many of her songs that relate to listeners are ones that her fans can identify with, who seem to not only enjoy the song hooks like I do, but also have experienced some drama that at least kind of fits the lyrics. Not the point.

Maybe the makers of the meme have a point (not necessarily for Taylor specifically, but you know). If someone gets stuck in the victim mentality, some serious relationship issues can arise: both in the present and developing into bigger problems in the future. Where is the line between looking at what isn't working that the desiree is/isn't doing and identifying where you might need to make some changes?

It is good to have expectations in relationships, potential relationships, plutonic friendships, and so on and so forth. Both parties should at least have a pretty good idea of what he/she is getting into and how the two plan to function together. Expectations keep us goal oriented, focused on the good stuff, and keep us from losing our heads. However, too many expectations can make things a little bit dicey.

We grow up dreaming of someone who will love us for all that we are, including everything: strengths, weaknesses, successes, faults, annoying habits, passions, hopes, dreams, and all of that great stuff. It's a wonderful ideal that is totally fine to aspire to. The important necessary flip side that should accompany that is recognizing that the beloved will too have weaknesses, faults, and annoying habits... along with the fun parts. We have (fair and balanced!) expectations for them that should be there, but they also have expectations for us.

Here's the tough part: that means we have to keep looking at ourselves and identify where we can do better, where we can grow, and what we might need to change. 


*GASP!!* "How dare?! Why would I ever have to change! I am me and that is more than enough and any man should be lucky to be with me!!!!" you might say. Disclaimer: I don't mean become a different person, pretend you are someone you're not, or put up a front of perfection until you rope a man into loving you no matter what and then open up the real can of crazy.

I mean, we should constantly be challenging ourselves to be growing in virtue... all the time. We'll always mess up (some of us less than others), but an attempt should be made to see ourselves as others see us so they can help us identify ways we could be growing or things we could be working on that we might not see. If ex-boyfriend (and w-boyfriend, and v-boyfriend, and u-boyfriend, and t-boyfriend...) all break up with you because you constantly talk about how you are jealous of other girls or telling stories of ex-boyfriends past or you chew the ice in your glass when you eat out until the ice starts to melt and excess water drips out of your mouth... these are things that are helpful to know so we can fix the little things (or in some cases big things) and be that much closer to forming happy, healthy, and lasting relationships.

Another thing to keep in mind on this foreboding part of the path to self-discovery: sometimes the critiques of exes aren't accurate or they're just incredibly biased/tainted. Take them with a grain bucket of salt. And never, ever get nitpicky. You are a wonderful human being, and don't ever lose sight of how much you are loved, the fact that you are a gift, you are unique, you are irreplaceable, and you have infinite value! This is all about becoming more you--the best you! Becoming the best version of yourself isn't always fun, but it is always rewarding. Virtuous people are happy people, and according to our classy girl Audrey Hepburn, "happy girls are the prettiest."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Encourage your sense of daring.

 I wrote and posted this article on my blog, "Cataloging the Search for True Feminism" a while back (so the family reference is a tad outdated), but the title phrase came to mind once again when I came across this G.K. Chesterton quote:

Wise words. That man cracks me up sometimes.

I love adventures, taking risks, adrenaline rushes... oh, the thrill of it all. The following musings are not particularly related to single-ness per se, but they apply to love and life, so naturally they get me excited.

So, in an effort to maintain some consistency and at the same time share things that I think are worth sharing, I have reposted my own post for your reading pleasure and convenience. And this time I added pictures. Enjoy!

This title also came from a Dove chocolate wrapper.



My dear friends, what drives you? What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What is it that keeps you moving throughout the day? What keeps you looking forward to the next big thing? What is it at the end of the day that gave you the strength to make it back to bed again after it is all said and done? When you want to quit, when you are tired, when you are sore, what do you think of that gives you the drive to push through that last leg?

I recently witnessed a scene on a TV show in which a “medium” told a woman that her marriage would not last and that her husband would never be able to fulfill her emotionally. The face of the wife broke my heart. Here is a woman who loves her husband, but the thought was presented to her that he would never totally make her happy, never fill every void in her heart—and she could not respond to it. I saw this scene and I thought, of course not! When we mourn the loss of loved ones, we find peace in the thought that they are in a place of never-ending, unceasing joy. Why? Because we know, somewhere inside of each of us, there is a yearning for something, for someone, which will never be satisfied on this side of heaven.

Is this disheartening? Absolutely not! If anything, it is a hint that there is something more, that there is a greater joy that awaits us on the other side. This anticipation should drive us to wake up each morning and to make it through the day, with each choice and each act and each word bring us one step closer to eternal bliss!

My sister is a new mother. Her small family is incredibly beautiful and a tremendous source of joy for all of us around them. I keep a constant countdown of the next time I get to see them and hold my little niece again. As cute as she is, she sure can make a lot of noise—and sometimes she makes a lot of noise in the middle of the night. In spending time at my sister’s house, I had the privilege of witnessing something extraordinarily beautiful: the sacrificial love of a mother. I have seen this before, but these particular circumstances struck chords in my heart. Even when she’s sick, tired, sore, or just needing a break, my sister continues to feed the baby, cradle her, play with her, change her, and love her. This tiny person depends on her totally. Even if my sister didn’t particularly feel like it, she keeps going because she loves her baby. It is love that motivates a heart. Mothers who wake in the middle of the night to feed their crying babies choose love. Fathers forced to work extended hours to put food on the table choose love. Teachers writing their lesson plans and grading papers so their students have the chance to succeed choose love. Nurses, ministers, firemen, soldiers, and volunteers choose love. The list goes on and on and is by no means limited to any walk of life.


When we think of what keeps us going, hopefully we think first of the ones we love, but we must also remember the ones who love us. My family works hard to give me the best that they can, I take care not to disappoint them. We have people counting on us who constantly choose love for our sakes. Even when we cannot see it, they have hearts that also beat with love for us.

Women have hearts that want to know love. There is a part of us, on the most fundamental level, that yearns to experience a burning love for who we are just because we are. There is a deep joy and peace in knowing there is a heart that longs to love at all times, despite faults, failures, and shortcomings. Unfortunately, many women’s ability to receive that love is hindered by wounds that cut to the core. Shattered homes, absent parents, abusive family members, deaths of loved ones, and hearts broken by lovers leave behind scars that affect us for the rest of our lives. It would be easy to build a shining barrier of our own, a kind of wall around our hearts, that guard from any chance of pain. But my dear readers, I am posing this question to you: is that any way to live? To sacrifice an unsurpassing joy for a life of inner solitude? Where is the risk? Love is always a risk! It involves going out on a limb for the sake of another, and purely for the sake of that loved one. It includes choosing the best for the other even when it hurts. What is it—or should I say, who is it—that gets you out of bed in the morning? Do you know the one whose heart beats and burns for you? This love overcomes the weight of fears that we can’t see and eclipses afflictions with glory. This love is jealous for you. This love is trustworthy, constant, and unconditional. It is hard. It is risky. But my friends, I urge you to encourage your sense of daring and break the walls of the shining barrier. Need proof? Look at the created world. And I’m not talking about what we made. Dare to love completely.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If I didn't know better...

I am a sucker for great drama. I'm not talking Real Housewives or Big Rich Texas, but I'm thinking House or Law & Order: shows and movies with great acting, deep characters, rich scripts and story-lines, and episodes that make you think. I've recently had some down time and had the chance to catch up on all of my TV shows, so I picked up a couple new ones, one of which being Nashville (ABC). I was impressed with the first couple of episodes, and I'm curious to see where the intertwining story-lines lead.

There was one particular scene that caught my attention: the final scene in the pilot episode. In the scene, a couple performs a song (which in the show they wrote, but in actuality it is a cover of a song by The Civil Wars) called "If I Didn't Know Better." I've posted the lyrics and video here...


If I didn't know better I'd hang my hat right there
If I didn't know better I'd follow you up the stairs

Stop saying those sweet things you know I like to hear
The horns are blowing louder and they're destroying me

Why do I keep drinking
Wasting my time on you
If I didn't know better
Well damnit
I do

There's a hole in what you're saying
I can plainly see
You have a lover that's waiting but baby you're right 
here with me

Ooh, you might as well be the devil
Oh, keeping me out past three
Oh, you're the one with that apple so baby you can't 
blame me

Why don't you keep drinking
Get me one night with you
If I didn't know better
Well damnit
I do
You know that I do

Oh, baby you're right here with me
Oh, baby you know


I've never heard this song before the night I watched this episode, and I loved how the writers/producer/whoever chose to end the episode with this almost haunting song about using your better judgement. Great drama, right?


But the lyrics themselves are very real. I know I'm not the only one who has experienced the bad boy's charming allure, and deep down when I know better, he makes himself dangerous and irresistible. Of course I'm not talking necessarily about guys in a biker gang or whatever, but we all know the type: the rebels without a cause, where heartbreak seems to follow them and we wonder what is underneath their mysterious cover. We know they're no good for us, and yet, it is so hard just to let go... or as my mom says, "just break the wrist and walk away" (quoting a movie, she's not actually encouraging me to be violent).

It's a blessing in itself that we are given consciences, that we can properly form to identify right and wrong, especially when our emotions are wrapped up in whatever particular circumstance. We can trust that deep down, we know when something is not good for us. Yet, we are still drawn to it.

(Don Draper from Mad Men seemed to be a good embodiment of this kind of character)

Sure, this is the allure of sin, as it always seems tantalizing and mesmerizing in the moment, but for the sake of this blog and this post I'm thinking particularly of the single ladies. We want a man we can bring home to mom and dad, someone our friends will be supportive of us dating, and someone who will ultimately make us happy, holy, and healthy. Accepting the reality that we are weak, frail human beings who are easily seduced by our ears more than our eyes, we recognize the tendency to fall into this damaging habit or cycle of not being able to let go of a man who isn't good for us. It could be the Savior mentality ("I can change him"), it could be the ability to identify with him ("He's so lonely, I'm lonely too, he just needs someone to love him and understand him"), or even simply the thought of being rebellious against whoever ("I know everyone says this isn't good for me, but I will prove them wrong"). But ultimately we know it all ends up the same way the ones who love us predicted: "I knew better."

We can praise our ability and our right judgement in helping us avoid or get out of these potentially dangerous situations that keep us from reaching the fullest of our potential, the best versions of ourselves, the individual amazing women we are! We need to ask ourselves:

  • Is this person/relationship helping me to grow?
  • Am I learning more about myself in healthy, positive ways?
  • Are my family and friends supportive?
  • Is this man doing what he can to help me thrive in my hobbies, workplace, and other relationships?

All in all, I was happy with the end of the song. It repeats "If I didn't know better..." but all comes back to "but damn it, I do." This extra little flavor in the language could be taken 2 ways, or even progressively... the first time or two she says it, it could be a "Oh, I want to, but I know I can't... damn it!" but as the song goes on, more of a "Heck yes I know better! I will not be tricked, damn it!" which is how I personally like to think of it... but of course, it's up to your own interpretation. I'm just happy that as haunting the song is, she sticks to her guns. Rock on, girl. Here's hoping all of us are inspired to find the courage within ourselves to do the same. :)




**If you or someone you know could be in a more extremely unhealthy, damaging, or abusive relationship, check out the warning signs here and don't be afraid to ask for help: toll-free hotline **

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On to plan B!

There is so much pressure out there, especially in the Christian world, for a girl to find a man, get married, and start procreating with reckless abandon, and if you don't do it in your first couple of years out of college, there's something wrong with you and you are using being single by choice as a cop-out excuse for not being chosen. Especially for ladies recently out of relationships with a man who was supposed to be "the one," this is a huge fear.

I've felt like this myself in the past. I thought I had found my future husband, we'd figured out a timeline and we knew when we were getting engaged, when we were getting married, when we'd start having a family. I'd tested writing my name with his last name, and all that lovey dovey stuff. But it didn't work out.

So I tried not to take dating so seriously and date more "casually." A very call-it-like-it-is mentality, going on a few dates to try someone on and see if he fit. It was working all right for me, but after each breakup or each almost-relationship ended, I was back at square one. I'd think to myself "Here we go again through the cycle: Do I like him? Does he like me? Would we be a good fit? Get to know each other's background, family story, yadda, yadda, yadda."

It was disheartening and ultimately draining. I knew that I shouldn't have that kind of a mindset, but it was so difficult not to look at it as a repeating pattern, expecting to find something different when I kept treating each thing the same.

But I was missing out here. I had the capacity to make my life something extraordinary! There was an important message I hadn't been applying to myself in the dating sphere:

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future full of hope." Jer. 29:11

It all came down to one thing: let go and let God. Sure, dating is draining, breakups are hard, and it can be quite a bit stressful repeating itself, but having a relationship or a relationship prospect is not an end all be all (of course not, that's the purpose of this blog). But I learned to do my best to stay cool and remember that God is God and I am not.

Men aren't letters in the alphabet. Just like we want them to see us as incommunicable, irreplaceable, infinite mysteries, with deep hearts and minds that go on forever, we must remember that they are human beings too, and more than potential suitors! It's almost silly to try and make that point, but it is so important to remember that men too have passions, fears, hopes, dreams, wounds, strengths, and hopefully a sense of humor and personality. Fostering healthy friendships with guys (I'm talking boundaries, ladies) helps remind us that we're not looking for a checklist... we're waiting for our best friend.

Moral of the story? Stay cool. God knows what's up, and He knows a lot better than we do. Keep being your classy, fabulous self and trust that it's all going to work out. Feel helpless in the meantime? We can practice virtue, explore our own passions, fears, hopes, dreams, wounds, strengths, and hopefully sense of humor and personality, and trust that the Lord knows what he's doing. Future full of hope... I like that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A presentation on dating:

Some of my dear friends from Franciscan University of Steubenville, my alma mater, put together this presentation on dating for the Homecoming 2012 talent show this past month. Just in case you needed a smile, this sure did the trick for me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In The Know

Gossip is a huge weakness in this day and age, especially among women. I've been reflecting on this quite a bit recently, especially after encountering an old girlfriend of mine who was interested in my life updates. I had gone through a messy breakup and started seeing someone knew, and naturally as my friend she wanted to be filled in. I briefly went over the events that had transpired just so she could get the gist of it, and then I moved on to the fun part: how happy I am with my life now.

However, I noticed that my friend kept steering the conversation back to the breakup: "Who said what?" "And then what happened?" "How did they react?" "So what did you do?" ...I was ready and willing to let the conversation move forward, as what she saw as "juicy details" are unnecessary, especially given that she has nothing to do with the situation and I did not have permission from the persons involved to share details, and frankly it was none of her concern aside from her relationship with me. The thought occurred to me though: if her concern was for me and my goodness and happiness, where was the need for the dramatic backstory coming from?

Maybe it is that innate message "knowledge is power," and the "if you know how to use information you can do anything" kind of mentality that drives it, but there is something in us that wants to be in the know, the first person to deliver the news. We love having people come to us for information, for "juicy details," for interesting tidbits of gossip about our dear friend Jill, Lisa from down the hall, Marcus who dated our friend, Kailey from high school, or Ben who knows a friend through another friend but we've never actually talked to each other, or Taylor's sister's bridesmaid (the one with the blonde hair), or Theresa's coworker's sister's son and his girlfriend.... you wouldn't believe what they did!

My hypothesis? We want to feel needed. If we have a piece of information that no one else knows, our presence holds value. You can see it in action movies: someone won't tell a secret, won't write down a password or secret location of a captive, so the person(s) trying to get the information out of the secret-keeper are forced to keep them alive, in order to eventually attain said valued piece of information. Makes sense enough.

I've heard people complain about those who gossip, saying that people who gossip are insecure, and I think there might be some truth to that thought. We do all have insecurities and wounds in one way or another that manifest themselves differently in each person, in each circumstance, etc. But everyone has a need to be affirmed in his or her existence, to know that they are needed. On some level, we need to know that we are needed. Accordingly, it makes sense that we have a tendency to keep little stories and bits of information to ourselves, only hinting at hit to play up the value. If someone wants the information badly enough, they'll keep us around.

I think the next question to ask here is, how can we still be affirmed in our friendships and our worth without slipping into hurtful or sinful habits or adopting a tabloid mentality? One word: LOVE.

Yes, I know, I bring just about everything back to love, but it is the crux of our existence, our reason for living, our purpose in the creation story, what each and every man and woman seeks to no end, what no person lives a full and happy life without... so I'd say it's worth repeating.

I think the most practical first step is asking ourselves before we share a story or tidbit about whoever a few important questions:

1. Is this necessary to share?
2. Does it help or hurt the person(s) about whom I am speaking?
3. Does my involvement warrant me sharing this information?
4. What is my motivation for sharing?
5. If the person I am talking about was here next to me, would I still share?

Another important thing to consider, or I guess just another step towards bettering ourselves: surround yourself with people who want the best for you, genuinely. You want friends who still want to be around you when you don't have a secret story to disclose, or that you don't have to bait with hints of details about any certain scandalous affair. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but once the stories are filtered, it becomes much easier to see who loves you for you and who just wants to be in the know.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I don't wait anymore

This post was beautifully written by gracefortheroad at http://gracefortheroad.com. It's super beautiful so I'm sharing it here for all the single ladies. Worth the read! :)



When I was 16, I got a purity ring.
And when I was 25, I took it off.
I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it — it wasn’t a statement or an emotional thing. I just slipped it off my finger that day and, before tucking it away in a box, ran my finger around the words on the familiar gold band.
“True Love Waits.” Waits.
What’s it “waiting” for, anyway?
*****
I had my reasons for deciding not to wear it anymore. Other people might have other reasons. It’s a graveyard of hearts, this place where single church girls crash into their late 20s and early 30s. Churches see the symptoms. They scramble to reach out to the ever-growing young adult singles crowd who feels alienated by family-oriented services.
But there’s something bigger behind it than that.
Much bigger.
There are a lot of girls out there who don’t know who God is anymore – the God of their youth group years just isn’t working out. Back then, that God said to wait for sex until they are married, until He brings the right man along for a husband. They signed a card and put it on the altar and pledged to wait.
And wait they did.
*****
And waited and waited and waited.
Some of them have prayed their whole lives for a husband, and he hasn’t shown up. They’ve heard the advice to “be the woman God made you to be, focus on that, and then the husband will come.” They’ve read “Lady in Waiting,” gotten super involved in church and honed their domestic skills.
And still they wait.
More than a decade ago, a youth leader handed them a photocopied poem in Sunday School written to them from “God” that said, “The reason you don’t have anyone yet is because you’re not fully satisfied in Me. You have to be satisfied with Me and then when you least expect it, I’ll bring you the person I meant for you.”
And the girls see it posted on their bulletin boards from time to time.
“You’re right, God,” they say. “We’re not satisfied in you yet. We will put you first and then you can bring us a husband in your timing.”
But many of them – if they’re honest – will tell you that time has passed, and it’s wrecking their view of God.
If this is who God’s supposed to be, then He’s tragically late.
So some decide to chuck “Lady in Waiting” out the window … and possibly their virginity with it. Church goes next. God might go next, too. If He doesn’t answer these prayers after they’ve held up their end of the bargain, why would He answer any others?
Whether it was the fault of the leaders, the fault of us girls, or both, a tragedy happened back then.
A lot of girls were sold on a deal and not on a Savior.
*****
I had that poem on my bulletin board all through high school – the one where “God” was telling me to fall in love with Him first and then I would be able to fall in love with a husband later.
Who wrote that poem anyway?
Pretty sure it wasn’t God.
When Jesus was here on the earth, the crowds would follow Him because they saw He gave good things. But that’s not what He wanted. He wanted their hearts for Himself. So He would turn to them and say things like, “If you don’t love Me so much that every other relationship in your life looks like hate by comparison, you can’t follow Me.” (Matthew 10:34-39, paraphrase)
That sounds a lot different from the poem.
Christ is the source of everything we need and the giver of all good gifts … but in telling people about Him, it’s possible we’ve sold them on a solution for life’s problems and not life itself.
What if we as girls had learned early on that having Him was everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have.
If we had learned we don’t abstain from sex because we’re “waiting.” We abstain because we love Him.
If I’d had on my bulletin board, “Fall in love with Jesus.” That’s it. Bottom line. That’s everything you need to know, to work toward, to put your hope in.
If I’d learned who He is, what He wants, how to give Him everything, not “wait” so that one day I could give my everything to someone else.
If I’d learned that it’s not bad to pray for a husband, but that my greater prayer should be for Him to spend my life as He chooses for His glory.
If we as believers make that our message, things could be drastically different for a lot of girls wondering why the God they think they learned to follow doesn’t compute. It doesn’t necessarily stop the desire for a husband or end all feelings of loneliness, but it does show a God who provides, loves and gives infinite purpose even to our singleness rather than a God who categorically denies some who pray for husbands while seemingly giving freely to others.
It shows that while marriage is good, He is the greater goal.
*****
Don’t think I’ve done this perfectly.
I’d be deceiving you if you thought that. I’ve had relationships where I made major mistakes. I’ve gone through angst-ridden phases where I met with friends to plead together with God to bring us husbands. I’ve planned major life decisions around possibilities.
I lived like I was waiting for something.
And that’s why I slipped off my ring that day. It wasn’t that I wanted to sleep with people – I haven’t. It wasn’t a slap to True Love Waits, or to anyone who wears a purity ring – saving sex for marriage is good and is His design.
I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here.
I already have Him … and He is everything.
“Follow Christ for His own sake, if you follow Him at all.” – J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Letter to my 15-year-old self

I wrote this for work to post on the company website (www.missionariesofpurity.com if you want to have a looksie) and I wanted to share it with you. :) I've also included a picture of 16-year old me, just for fun.



Dear 15-year-old me,

I’ve been taking some time to look back on my own life after encountering some young girls who deserved so much more than what they were settling for. It broke my heart to witness, and all I could think was if only I had known then what I know now. I know that it’s a little late for me, but in putting this into words it might not be too late for someone else. Here are some things I wish I knew:

“Follow your heart” is probably the worst advice ever. Use your head. All of your actions should come from the two working together.

Do things for yourself. Don’t live as if the man of your dreams is watching, or if your parents are standing right behind you, but do what is best for you. You know what these things are: things that make you the best version of yourself. Get sunshine, exercise, count your blessings often, take time to pray, and do something that you enjoy just because you enjoy it.

Surround yourself with people who genuinely want what is best for you, people that want to see you thrive. Your friends are the people who will want to help you follow your dreams, support you when times get tough, and do what they can to help you be happy, healthy, and holy… long-term, not just for the night.

Act out of charity. It’s one of those fake it ‘til you make it things when you are having a rough day, but you will make it. Be genuine. Smile. Speak kindly about your friends AND your enemies, and everyone in between. You will cheer everyone else around you up, and the feeling overflows to you… Joy comes from the heart and shows in the way that we treat others.

You are beautiful! You will hear so many other things in your life: you have to be skinnier, your hair has to be longer, your chest is too small, and so on and so forth… but you have been formed out of love, with a purpose and people who loved you even while you were in your mother’s womb! People who feed you those lies are only trying to feed emptiness in themselves, but dear, you are not empty! You have passions, loves, interests, personality, talents, and gifts. You are inspiring! Strive every moment to be the best version of yourself, regardless of others’ put-downs. When in doubt, remember that happy girls are the prettiest. Be someone worth admiring… but above all, remember that you are beautiful and you are loved!

Sincerely,
Justine

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In order to lead a fascinating life, one brimming with art, music, intrigue, and romance, you must surround yourself with precisely those things.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seek Holiness Before Seeking a Spouse

Single Life column by Catholic singer-songwriter 
Jackie Francois: From our July 29 issue
 07/28/2012
Jackie Francois Facebook
– Jackie Francois Facebook

I really enjoy being single — until someone tells me they want me to date their kin in order for me to bring them back to the Church.
Sometimes I want to respond with, “Hey lady, I don’t flirt to convert!”
It seems, though, that God has granted me the gift of slow wit in the most inopportune times.
When people find out I’m single, they either 1) try to set me up (either with another supposedly pitiful single person or with a convent), 2) tell me how lucky I am to be avoiding marriage or 3) assume I have an incurable disease.
I don’t mind the setter-uppers; they mean well and often want me to enjoy the same bliss they have experienced in their vocation. The jaded marriage-avoiders are another bunch, though. Many times they pressure me to live the pleasures of intimacy without the levels of commitment. They especially flip out when I tell them that I’m a 28-year-old virgin striving to live a life of chastity, because, as they tell me, I “have missed out on life.” The “incurable diseasers” who condescendingly ask, “Why aren’t you married, yet?!” figure that if I’m still single in my late 20s, there must be something wrong with me.
Regardless of these assumptions and reactions, I have never felt more joy or peace in my life than I feel now in the midst of my young-adult single life.
Truthfully, it has taken me years of faith, humility and dating to get to a place where I know that God alone satisfies the yearnings of my heart to love and be loved. God alone is the one for whom my heart longs.
Even though I would like to get married someday, God is the one who I want more than anything. If God called me to give up a husband or family for the sake of the Kingdom, I would.
When there are days that I begin to idolize marriage as the ultimate fulfillment of this life, I remind myself of my God-directed priorities.
If I died tomorrow, would I be happy? Of course! I would be so excited to be with the One whom my heart loves (especially after an excruciatingly purifying time in purgatory, I’m sure).
Obviously, I am not perfect and am still learning how to navigate my way through single life, figuring out how to date properly, wanting the best for others (even if it means being rejected), and practicing what I preach — all the while trying to draw closer to the heart of God in the busyness of everyday life.
My hope for single people who are discerning is that they seek holiness before seeking a spouse, knowing that Jesus the Bridegroom gives a peace and joy that no person on this earth could ever give.
I hope that they practice enjoying the present, since every state of life brings with it trials and sacrifices that train us in virtue and prepare us for heaven.
Lastly, I hope they become witnesses to a twisted culture that scoffs at virtues like purity, chastity, modesty and self-control (see Philippians 2:13-14). Our world surely needs that bold witness.

Jackie Francois is a Catholic singer and songwriter.
Find her music online at
JackieFrancois.com.


Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/seek-holiness-before-seeking-a-spouse/#ixzz227lYj6OO