Guard Your Heart ~ by Esther Rich

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

        GUARD YOUR HEART. It’s a lesson we’ve heard time and time again – often to the extent where it feels like a threat instead of words of encouragement. But God wants us to guard our hearts so that they can be given, wholly and selflessly, to our future spouses – NOT as a means of repression or a strict rule designed to cage us in! The call to guard our hearts is really a reflection of the immensity of God’s love for us!

        I absolutely love the concept of The Veil’, because it reminds me that God’s got my back. He wants to protect me from making wrong decisions, and keep me safe as His gift to the man He intends me for (as He saves that man for me). But it would be dangerous ground if I thought I could rest on that and go about living however I liked because ‘He’ll clean up my mistakes’.

        Yes, he makes all things come together for my good. But as with any earthly relationship it would be unfair to demand that He does all the work. As important as it is to be open to God and let Him work in our lives, we also have to recognise the role we must play ourselves. We have to work with God to fulfil His plan for us.

        That means always keeping God at the centre of everything we do, and considering whether it is where He wants us to go before we take each step. I was giving out communion in mass once, when a really good looking guy approached the altar (yep – holy AND handsome!). I got flustered, forgot what I was doing and offered him ‘the Bloody of Christ’. I laugh about it now, but the deeper truth is that in that instant I was no longer focusing on the Lord. I let a guy whose name I didn’t even know come between me and Jesus in the precious Sacrament which, I might add, I was holding the whole time.

        Ever heard the phrase ‘Run towards Jesus, then look around and see who’s running with you’? In the race of life, keep your eyes on Christ for as long as possible before joining a partnership. Allow plenty of time for those who are weak, undetermined and uncommitted to drop off! I don’t mean put off marriage for years when the opportunity is right there, I mean give yourself time for deep discernment. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Our natural reaction is to jump head-first into relationships in an attempt to reap the benefits meant for much further down the line. Instead, enjoy each phase of the journey!

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Take it slow!

Dating is stressful. Dating is exhausting. Dating is confusing. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a stage of the relationship we all just want over and done with. But don’t let that impatience and awkwardness cause you to act rashly. Take a step back, enjoy each other’s company. Enter into COURTSHIP, allowing yourself to discern whether they are future spouse material. If they’re not, don’t continue dating for the sake of it – that has no productive end goal, and means you’re not open to the true vocation which could be calling you.

Apply strict boundaries.

Don’t put yourself in a situation which leaves you vulnerable to temptation or misinterpretation. In the early days – and for as long as you need into the relationship! – try to avoid being left alone at a group gathering. Always say goodnight at a reasonable hour. Be sensible with where and when you meet – opt for a romantic, dignified dinner in a restaurant rather than an overly-intimate, candlelit meal at his house.

Don’t open up to them about things you wouldn’t discuss with your closest friend.

No relationship was ever built on emotional dependence or manipulation. At least none which survived! Relying on them to solve your problems or transferring your burdens will only put pressure on the relationship that it can’t withstand. Stop and think about where the conversation is going before you enter into a heart-to-heart too early on in your relationship. Getting into conversations which are deeper than your current relationship status can handle leaves you open to confusion and desolation – trust me, I’ve been there!

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        Guarding your heart DOES NOT mean avoiding the opposite sex altogether! It’s NOT a piece of advice designed to prevent relationships forming and keep you cloistered up for fear of making mistakes. Neither is it an excuse for isolation because you’re afraid of being wounded. It doesn’t mean locking your heart up so tightly that you dodge human vulnerability by never opening up to anyone. Love IS vulnerability by nature!

        Guarding your heart IS about being aware of how you act, what you say and where you are, and practising self-discipline in order to protect yourself from heartache and sin. It’s about being discerning in your relationships, forming them on mutual trust, and building a strong foundation on which to then open your heart to the other person when the time is right.

        Your heart is valuable. Make sure the guy can pay the price it deserves before you give it away!   

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Esther is a final year Psychology student at Oxford University, UK, with a particular passion for empowering women to be who God made them to be and the complementarity of new feminism. She blogs at For Such a Time as This

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Thank you, Esther!

God love and bless you!

p.s.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

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These Beautiful Bones ~ By Emily Stimpson

I received Emily’s book in the mail back in October and I have been slowly making my way through it.  The reason it took me a while to get through it is because it is a book to be savored and meditated upon.  Plus, it took me a while to expand my understanding of the Theology of The Body, as the back cover says, “to beyond the bedroom.’

Ohhh, I Get It!

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“Emily reveals layers of depth and richness that many of us never knew were there.”

Jen Fulwiler

I have been reading about Blessed Pope John Paul II”s Theology of The Body (T.O.B) for quite some time but to be honest, I was never able to understand it beyond a certain level.  I knew it went deep but I was only able to comprehend it in a limited way. 

Why?  Because our beloved soon-to-be-a-Saint Pope was so holy and brilliant.  His experience (Poland ~ wow), prayer life, education and understanding of our anthropology formed him into this holy man and allowed him to peer into this mystery and deliver it to us as a gift at the right time. And, wow did we need it!

So, let’s say the depth of T.O.B is a 10.  Before reading Emily’s book, I probably had reached maybe a 3, at best.  Now, I might be a 6.  This is quite an improvement considering my limited experience, my lackluster prayer life, my unrelated education and zero insight into anthropology. 

But, Emily breaks it all down for us! She, being as smart as she is, brilliantly makes his teachings accessible and applicable to us all. Even she admits that his T.O.B. teachings are ‘profound and complex’ and difficult for her to understand.  Whew, I thought it was just me!  But, her book left me saying, “Ohhh, I get it!”

Beyond The Bedroom

T.O.B is an anthropology not a sexology.” 

Emily Stimpson

The subtitle of her book is “An Everyday Theology of The Body.”  Emily shows us how to apply the T.O.B everyday, everywhere and in everything we do.  She shows us that T.O.B was “never intended to be ‘just’ about sex.” 

As the back of the book says, T.O.B. teaches us about “everyday moments in life, helping you discover how to let grace enter into those moments and make them something extraordinary.”

This is good news for everyone but especially for singles!  As a single, young Catholic herself, Emily gives all of us (married and unmarried), as Scott Hahn said, “graceful guidance in living out the physical side of being spiritual.”

What Makes Us Beautiful?

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“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

 1 Samuel 16:7

Emily opens the book with a description of the Capuchin Bone Church in Rome, Italy.  I was not sure what this had to do with being beautiful but after I ‘got it’ I realized it was a superb analogy and fitting introduction.

She then goes into the history of our culture of Modernism and how it has confused us into thinking that ‘only that which is measurable is real’ and that we (rather than God) are the center of the universe.  She explains why Humanae Vitae was not well received at first but how 45 years later it can clearly be described as prophetic.

As Emily describes, “When the body is seen as mere matter, anything goes…The body, however, isn’t mere matter…..man is a union of body and soul…” 

Emily connects the dots between these beautiful bones of ours and our souls. The body “expresses the person…It reveals the living soul…making visible the invisible.”   She explains to us how our longings to know ourselves, God and Truth are common struggles and that yes, we can in fact obtain this knowledge. She explains how “our bodies reveal God to the world.”

Emily shows us how aSacramental world view” is the answer to attaining this knowledge and to healing that which ails us.  A Sacramental life imparts grace to us and makes visible to us the invisible.  It is our grace-filled souls that make us beautiful and holy….even the most plain and imperfect ‘body’ which does not measure up to our crazy Modernistic world…..is made beautiful through this supernatural power (superabundance) available to all of us.

A Sacramental World View

…matter is a vehicle for grace.”  Emily Stimpson

The Sacraments of the Church are the most powerful vehicles for grace but we can also tap into grace in every moment. Emily shows us the way and explains exactly what a Sacramental world view is.  I cannot do it justice without sharing the entirety of the book with you.  Emily weaves her wisdom throughout the book describing how grace is available to us when we work, play, serve, host, eat and do laundry.

My Favorite Chapters

Chapter 7 and 9 were my favorite chapters!  Chapter 7 is about the gift of food.  It is both convicting (are you a picky eater like me?) and balanced (gluttony, fasting, temperance, gratitude).  I think she is trying to say that the way we eat is a reflection of how we make love and show love…..  Do we rush?  Are we mindful and attentive?  Are we disordered in any way?  Selfish? Okay, moving on to Chapter 9!

I was reading Chapter 9 during Eucharistic Adoration and I found myself jotting down ten changes I need to make in my life in order to reduce the distractions in my life and increase my attentiveness and receptivity.  I also knelt at the altar and thanked God for Emily. Oh so convicting in so many good ways!

Earlier in the book she discusses receptivity and how it “requires more of us than just practicing hospitality. It also requires we Practice Attentiveness. That means looking into people’s eyes when they speak to us, paying heed to what their gestures and facial expressions communicate, and listening carefully to all they say.” As my friend Carolyn says, “it is important to be intentional.

The Cover

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When the book arrived I sent Emily a note letting her know that the cover is absolutely gorgeous.  You have to feel this book!  Sure you can get the Kindle version but I recommend the soft cover version!  You will marvel over its beauty, its softness, the chosen colors, the portrait and the embossed letters.  Really, I am not exaggerating! You will also want to highlight the best parts within the book to reflect back upon later.

Emily

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Everyone knows how I feel about Emily. She is lovely in her every word and gesture.  Her writings are brilliant and inspiring.  I am constantly spotlighting her in my 7QTs.  You can read more of her good stuff here and here and here. You can buy her book, These Beautiful Bones through Amazon as well as her other book, The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right.  And, you can become her facebook friend.  Even I, a big nobody, am her friend! 

Have you read her book?  If so, what was your favorite part?  What impact did it have on you? 

God love and bless your beautiful bones!

p.s.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

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I’m Over There!

This week I had the honor of providing a guest post for Esther’s blog, For Such A Time As This.

Head on over to Esther’s place and check out all her awesome posts!  Thank you, Esther.

Happy St. Thomas Aquinas Feast Day!

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God love and bless you,  Cindy

p.s.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

If you have enjoyed my blog, please “like” my Facebook Page, The Veil and sign up to receive my blog posts automatically by clicking the rectangular “Follow” button. Please check me out and follow me on Twitter too! Thank you!

Truth Is Written On Our Hearts

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The following note is a beautiful testament to the fact that the wisdom of Chastity is not just a Catholic thing.  The truth about our dignity and our design is written on our hearts. Joanna responded to the post Stop Sleeping With Himand she is a therapist who helps college-aged women. The note below includes her comments as well as a follow-up email exchange between us this weekend. She has a heart for young women and I feel so blessed to have met her.  Thank you, Joanna for taking the time to reach out with love and compassion!

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Dear Cindy,

I stumbled across your blog. I am not Catholic and am not religious, but I can’t agree more. I wish there was a corresponding value for secular folks without the religious connotation so it wouldn’t be rejected right away as being “prude.” I work with college aged women doing therapy with them and I cannot tell you how many times I want to shake them for being so blind to what they are doing to their self-esteem and perception of their own worth. Also, by doing things you don’t hold in high esteem, and behaving in a way that suggests you don’t value yourself, you start to believe it and actually lower your perception of your worth.

I was extremely promiscuous and the opposite of chaste. I thought it was the way to go. I had some fun, but now that I’m older I realize how much I wish I would have done less. I am very happily married to a man who fully respects me and chased me, and I am so fortunate, but I still wish I could know he was one of the only people. I know you mean chastity as you describe it and I mean acting much more in line with that value but not quite as strict, but it’s an important thing for women either way. As you said, men are the gatekeepers of commitment and we are the gatekeepers of sex. If we just give it away, we’ve got no cards we haven’t shown yet. We’ve gone all in and ruined his perception of us. The girls I work with are so confused when they sleep with a man the first night after drinking (being too drunk, another terrible thing for women), and he wants nothing to do with them while they hope they can have something.

As you said, it’s harsh, but men enjoy sleeping with easier women but they will never commit to them. They truly don’t see them as marriage material. It took me a long item to learn it but it’s never too late. Changing my viewpoint and wanting to be seen more as a lady and letting my strong man be a man has been an amazing life changing experience. Anyways, even though we have little in common in some aspects, I appreciate what you’re doing. I didn’t know it was such an epidemic that nice Catholic girls were staying single against their wishes. I feel like if they are patient, a real man will really appreciate and cherish them because of their value to not be used by so many men before him. That’s so hard to find these days. Early in my twenties I never would have understood or believed this, but at 32 it’s clear as a day. And I hope the younger girls don’t get hung up too much on finding a man- that is man repellant! Do your thing and good things will come sooner or later. I didn’t get engaged until 31.

It was so weird. I felt compelled (as you all would say, “called” :-)) to write that comment on your blog. Even if I can spare one young woman the feelings of isolation, rejection, and shame that can come with “giving it up” before a man has laid down his life for you, it would be worth it. I guess I thought maybe I could provide some insight from my unique perspective. I know some of my friends who are married and who only had sex with their now husbands or had very few partners sometimes ask me if they missed out. I can tell you as the cool, pretty, fun, popular party girl who also slept around, “NO, You did not miss out!” Honestly, the chances of having a rewarding experience with a man you don’t very well who you do not fully trust are slim to none. Physically it is not rewarding because it takes more effort and communication to make us feel good 🙂 and emotionally it is definitely not rewarding; it is the opposite of rewarding. It meets very specific, immediately gratifying needs, and if someone has those needs in the first place, I suggest they talk to  counselor or priest or friend or whoever, because to me that is spiritual bankruptcy. That’s what I was, spiritually and morally bankrupt. As a psychologist I learned that after sex, both sexes experience a release… For women, it is oxytocin, which strengthens our emotional connection to the person we just slept with and gives a strong desire to attach. Do you know what the corresponding hormone does in men? It makes them sleepy! If that doesn’t say it all right there…

But I get the sense that maybe sometimes even the nice and very faithful Catholic girls, like the ones who read your blog, wonder if they should just say “F it” and do what it seems like every other woman is doing or give in to a man’s pressure, and I felt compelled to say that THE GRASS IS NOT GREENER, and once you do it you cannot take it back. You can recover and grow and move past it, but you can’t reverse it. I look at it like the wrinkles I caused myself because I didn’t listen to my mom about not tanning and always wearing sun tan lotion. Now, I can do things to maintain my skin, but I can’t undo the sun damage and wrinkles. Having a lot of partners, or even more than one, in some cases, does not make you “damaged,” but you cannot go back. I hate that my sweet man, who knew I was a woman with a bit of a past but loves me anyways because he knows we have both changed, has to know he was not my only one.

My experiences make me who I am, so I value them, but if I have a daughter I will try to get the message to her. My poor mother tried with me, but I thought I knew way better and that she was a prude. So now I try to convey it to the women I work with. Even just getting them to commit to “no sex without being in a committed relationship” is a big first step. And I think nice God-fearing women who are not shut down so to speak are capable of way better.

Guys can be very convincing and the smoother and more cunning ones can smell a low self-esteem from a mile away. Some are well-meaning but still get swept away with their immediate wants. Project confidence and know your worth, and if he won’t be with you because you won’t sleep with him, you really dodged a bullet. Let him say whatever he wants to you or about you, (it’s just because he feels rejected and wants to protect his ego and maintain his pride), you retained your power and dignity, and he showed his true colors. Other people will know you would not go there with him and they will respect you, and the right man might hear that and be very impressed.

Another way it was put to me that really got me is that sex is not as big of a deal to a man because his “part” is external. Nobody is going inside his body when he has sex. For a woman, sex is like inviting a guest over to your house- it is much more personal to have someone in your home than to stop by someone else’s home. It’s someone in your space. When we have sex with men, we allow them in our house, and they just get to stop by if they aren’t planning on staying. That’s why it is more personal and intrusive for us if this isn’t the man we completely trust to take care of our house. Anyways, now that I’ve written a novel and told you my life story, please use whatever you like. As a reformed promiscuous woman please feel free to ask me if there is any topic with which you think my perspective might be helpful.

Take care!

Joanna

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God Love and Bless you!

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Where Would I Be Without The Veil?

I am verrrry pleased to introduce to you guest blogger, Pier from The Newlywed Lefebvres ~ A Catholic Newlywed Couple Beginning Their Journey (& Blog) Together.  Enjoy this beautiful testimony!  Thank you, Pier!

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I was raised all my life in a Christian home. I always felt like Jesus and I were on very good terms, but one day, in 2008, I felt this need, this overwhelming compelling need to convert to Catholicism. There was really no basis, per say, for it, but I felt God calling me to make this change. If you know anything about me, you might know that I have a lot of grandiose ideas, but not so many of them are seen through to fruition. You see, I’m a perfectionist and if I feel there is one little hint of something having the chance to not being completed 100% correctly, I usually don’t follow-through… Bad habit, I know.

Converting to Catholicism was different though. I went through RCIA with a hunger for knowledge. When my very Protestant family raised concerns for my change, I was able to calm their ‘fears’ very easily and logically. When I was finally a confirmed Catholic on November 22, 2008, there was a sense of peace about me that I had never known.

I continued my Catholic walk, gradually losing that zeal for the Church I had had in the beginning. Over the years, I knew God had called me to become a Catholic because I was finally able to truly worship within the Mass – a feeling I hadn’t felt in Protestant church in some time, but there was something missing, it seemed. Why had God called me to become a single Catholic? I just didn’t understand.

At first, I thought, perhaps, I was called to become a nun. I reached out to several convents, read all of the brochures and prayed about each of the distinct vocations. But it still didn’t seem like that was where God was calling me. Then, one day, I was at work, and I felt God speak to me – It was more like a gentle nudging really. I was in front of my computer, and I felt God tell me to go to CatholicMatch.com. Seriously. I argued with him, audibly, at my desk for a little while. Then, finally, I gave in.

“Fine.” I said, “I am leaving this in your hands, God. My future spouse is in your hands. I have tried on my own, and I obviously can’t handle this task. You choose for me. You show me who you have in store for my future.”

And that, my dears, is history. I signed onto Catholic Match, and one week later received a message from a guy who seemed genuinely interesting. He wrote me the longest and most beautiful e-mails. It was so painfully obvious that this man truly had a heart for Christ, and when he asked for my phone number later that month, we had dozens of conversations that lasted for hours on end. Never was there a dull moment in conversation. Neither of us are (or were then) self-proclaimed ‘phone people’, but speaking to each other was always the high point of each of our days. I knew it to be true on my end, and it was pretty apparent from his…

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I tried and tried and tried to find “the one” on my own – without God’s help. For years and years, I dated guys who seemed to have similar interests; based on ‘attraction’; who just ‘wanted to get married’; who were nice…It never worked. For one reason or another, I wound up 28 years old and scared to death I was going to be {gasp!} 30 and unmarried! That’s when I gave the reins to God, and allowed him to point me in the direction of my soulmate.

From my first date with Craig, there was a tugging at my heartstrings that this one was the one. He took me out for dinner and drinks, and we laughed and talked and smiled at each other across the table for 4-5 hours. A very obviously inebriated man approached our table while Craig was in the restroom, and told me he just wanted to let me know how beautiful I was…Craig came back to this, and told me, shyly, “That man was right. You are beautiful.”

When I got home that evening, my heart was soaring. I felt like a 16 year old girl who had just been asked to prom by the football star – and it never stopped. That feeling is the same one I get even today when Craig has been on a trip for work, and comes through the front door, or when I am almost home from work and know he is waiting for me…I still get butterflies.

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Craig planned our 2nd date – we met one Sunday for a Bible Study at the Catholic parish closest to my (then) condo. I thought, then, “Wow. This has God’s writing all over it.” And I was so right. It was becoming glaringly obvious as to why God led me to become a Catholic those 3 years earlier. It was finally clear. He was preparing me for my holy spouse.

Craig and I didn’t even attempt to kiss until our 5th date, two months later… but just one month after that, he told me he loved me for the first time – and it was genuine. We both knew – it was palpable – we had been in love from the first moment we set eyes on one another. He told me later he felt like I could be ‘the one’ even before we had ever met in person. He always made me a priority, and treated every situation we were in and every conversation we had as if I were his future spouse.

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After eight months of dating, Craig told me, while overlooking the waves on a beautiful beach, that he wanted to marry me, and was actively ‘searching for rings’. On the one year anniversary of our very first date, Craig surprised the heck out of me with the most romantic and well-thought-out proposal, and (after I literally fell out of my chair and onto my knees beside him) I answered him, “Absolutely.”

Never was there a choice I was surer of. We were married just over 5 months later in a beautiful Catholic Mass, surrounded by all of our family and close friends. We have been blissfully married now for 16 months, and our love only increases day by day. I am blessed with a husband who is truly my partner, my very best friend, my holy spouse. I have every confidence this is the man God intended for me from everything about our relationship, from the fact we finish each other’s sentences to the fact he likes the cake and I prefer the icing. We are absolutely a match made in Heaven, by God.

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I think there is no question that along with anything God-given comes superabundance – of things that matter. This isn’t to say that everything is always 100% perfect, or that God answers YES to everything we ask for. We have been trying to conceive a child for 16 months, to no avail. BUT, the faithfulness, the love, the trust, the peace, the joy, the kindness within our marriage and our relationship…It isn’t a human amount. It’s a God amount. And life within a marriage, within God’s plan? That’s like living life, no matter what storms may rain down on you, in a perpetual hug.

It is unbelievably apparent to me we were both hidden by the veil. I was a serial dater, and there were plenty of guys who I ‘could have seen myself with’, but no matter how ‘good the relationship was’, it was only ‘of this world’. Craig will tell you the same thing about his past, which tried to pull him away from the Catholic faith, and it turns out there certainly wasn’t anything ‘other-worldly’ about it, either. Nothing has ever even come close to comparing to the manner in which Craig courted me; the diligence he had to God; the pure love and compassion he showed me… All of it was different and indescribable. NOTHING of this world.

The world may have chosen differently for Craig and I. For Craig, maybe society would have chosen someone more outdoorsy, someone with a love for baseball and a penchant for cold weather (He’s from Minnesota and went to college at the University of North Dakota.). For me, maybe the world might have picked someone who grew up in the South, someone with the same love for all things southern and monogrammed, someone passionate about music and the opera, but even the mere thoughts just break my heart because the world would have been wrong.

God knows exactly what He is doing, and what is best for you. Wait on Him.

 

About Pier & Craig

Craig & Pier are Catholic ‘newlyweds’ married in September 2012, seeking God’s Will and striving to serve Him in every facet of their lives. They author a weekday blog, chronicling their marriage journey and growing together in Christ. The couple lives in Dallas, Georgia with their precious fur-babies, Miss Daisy, Lucy & Caroline.

Are You A Priority Or Just An Option?

As you enter into the New Year, put your heart in the hands of our Lord. Forgive yourselves for the questionable decisions you have made in the past.  And, if you are currently in a relationship, ask yourself this question:

Am I a priority in his life or just an option?

Trial and Error

I just received an email from a girl who paid me a compliment which made me chuckle a bit.  She said, “I never learned all these gems you seem to know intuitively when it comes to with dealing with men and finding the one.” 

Oh boy, there is nothing intuitive about the “gems” that I share on this blog.  Each and every gem has been obtained by trial and error.  Mostly error. 🙂 I am sharing them with you not because I believe that you will avoid the heartache that these errors bring on, but instead so that you will be able to connect the dots and self-correct when you do err. 

If I have painted a picture here of my dating life that makes it seem that this was all “intuitive” (which means “known automatically”), then I owe you an apology.  Out of all the letters I receive from you, my readers, there has been nothing that surprises me.  I share anecdotes in these private correspondences which I don’t share publicly on the blog because they are sort of embarrassing!  I hope my responses ooze with compassion as well as the message that you are completely normal in your desire to be loved.  And, that your ‘errors’ are nothing new. 

So, back to the question:  Am I a priority in his life or just an option?

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Me at 25 in need of Gems

5 Years ~ Ugh

Let me begin by telling a story.  I didn’t even include this particular aspect of my life in my book because it represents to me such foolishness on my part.  I still look back and wonder why I stayed in this relationship as long as I did.  The only thing I can come up with was that I did not have any other options.  Or so I thought.  Who knows how my life would have transpired had I asked myself the above question and then acted on the wisdom the answer would have revealed.

I cringe as I type but here it goes.  I started dating a guy when I was 25.  Let’s call him John.  The final breakup happened when I was almost 30. There were approximately 5 break ups that happened in those 5 years.  Now, keep in mind that I was away from my faith and I was not living a Sacramental life in Christ.  I was seeking God, but on my own terms.  I had a couple of control issues that I was working through which started in college and lingered through my 20’s.  Staying in the relationship with John only deepened the crevices where these control issues ran through my head and my heart.

The break up pattern looked like this:  He chased me.  I agreed to reconcile.  He treated me like an option.  I would get mad.  I would break up.  He contacted me and used his charm to convince me to give it another try. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

He Loved Me, But Not Enough

We met in college when we were both dating other people. His break up and my break up happened around the same time and presto, we began to date.  He was living about an hour away and back then long distance phone calls cost money.  I felt special that he would call me but it did not feel like he called me often enough. 

We would also see each other on the weekends.  But, not every weekend.  Interestingly, I knew his family really well but he had only met my family a couple of times.  His family lived in the same town as I did so it was convenient to include me in that aspect of his life.  But, there were times when he would visit his family and not even let me know he was in town.  Ouch.  Time to break up.

I Was Not A Priority

My commitment to Chastity was severely tested.  But, it was also a very effective litmus test.  I knew deep down that marriage was the only thing that could justify such an intimate act.  I knew that if I had shared that with him and he had not married me in the end, there would be hell to pay.  Mostly towards myself.

During this time, I watch others meet and marry.  I could see a marked difference.  I could see that I was being treated as an option and not a priority.  And, it made me mad.  So, I would point this out to John.  He would act hurt/confused that what he was offering me was not enough.  But I knew that he knew I was right. 

There were all sorts of excuses:  the distance, his job, his career, his immaturity.  Looking back, he was kind of immature but it is interesting that the girl he dated after me somehow cured this immaturity.  He made her a priority and he married her.

My Gems

This unhealthy relationship really did a number on me.  I continued to date other guys after John but it took several years for the Lord to heal me. I don’t blame John.  I blame myself. 

But, the errors resulted in gems. After John, I could easily spot when I was being treated as just an option by the guys I was dating. I was able to connect the dots and self-correct. 

It was not until I met Gregg that I realized what being made a priority looks and feels like.  There were no excuses.  There were no disappointments. Each potential opportunity to spend time together was capitalized upon. And, these opportunities required a plane and taking leave from work.  There was nothing convenient about that.

Gregg never tired of calling me.  He loved talking to me on the phone because he loved my voice.  I met his family and he met mine.  I met his friends and he met mine.  He was proud to have me as his girlfriend.  He displayed the maturity required to move things toward marriage.  He sacrificed his life to join it to mine.

So, I encourage you to ask yourself this question about your current relationship:  Are you a priority or just an option?  If you are just an option, break up and don’t look back.  Don’t delay your opportunity to be treated like a priority by the right man.  Don’t tie up your heart on a man who could take you or leave you.  Keep your heart free so that the Lord can move in your life and so that you can follow His will.  Keep your emotions holy so as to not deepen the crevices of anger, mistrust, self-blame and disappointment.

Allow Him to turn your errors into Gems!

God love you and bless you! 

p.s.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

If you have enjoyed my blog, please “like” my Facebook Page, The Veil and sign up to receive my blog posts automatically by clicking the rectangular “Follow” button. Please check me out and follow me on Twitter too! Thank you! 

Giving Thanks/Help A Reader

Giving-Thanks-in-All-Things

I am taking a little break from blogging this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family.  My brother is hosting the festivities this year and we have much to be thankful for, including a clean bill of health for both of my sisters who have been through cancer treatments over the last couple of years. 

And, although we suddenly lost our Dad 5 years ago, we still have our amazing Mom whose physical energy and mental competence puts my own to shame.  When Gregg describes my Mom, he does so with two words:  Mental Toughness

I am also thankful for you, my dear Readers.  I have received the most amazing notes of encouragement from my readers recently.  For example:

Hi Cindy 

I have been following your blog for some months now and often get goose bumps or cry when reading some of your posts! Thank you for touching people’s lives – even those in faraway South Africa! I recently turned 30 and along with many of my friends, am still single. This topic comes up fairly often in conversation and I feel like I can now provide fresh and meaningful advice to my single friends using stories and quotes from your blog that have helped me, so thank you. 🙂 It still amazes me that technology enables us to “meet” people through the internet who discuss such issues.   

This is a bit of a long shot but I was hoping you would perhaps be able to help me. I am planning on visiting the USA for the first time next year (Easter timeframe) and one of the things I would like to do is go on a retreat while I am there. As I mentioned, I live in South Africa and Catholic retreat centres are very scarce. 😦 Google searches return a plethora of options and not being familiar with any places in your country I have no idea how to choose! I was wondering if I could ask for your advice to provide some pointers please. 

Many thanks,

A Reader In South Africa

Help A Reader

Will you please provide recommendations (either in the comments or by email to me) for Retreat Centers in the U.S?  She is open to visit anywhere in the U.S and her plan is to be here around Easter 2014. 

Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if she visited one or several of you while she was here?  I will open up my home to host her here in Maryland if she would like, although I am not ‘in’ on all the cool retreats for young Catholic women.  Please, please share your recommendations!!

Thank you again, my sweet girls.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of Love from family, friends and our Lord.

Be assured of my continued prayers for you.  God love and bless you, Cindy

p.s.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

If you have enjoyed my blog, please “like” my Facebook Page, The Veil and sign up to receive my blog posts automatically by clicking the rectangular “Follow“button. Please check me out and follow me on Twitter too! Thank you!

A Sacramental Life in Christ

Last week I responded to a Reader’s question on how to fight discouragement and temptation.  I concluded with her that the only way to do this is through a Sacramental life in Christ.  I have made this somewhat vague recommendation many times on this blog and therefore I created this post with more details so that I can refer back to it in the future.  

I have shared in other posts that when I returned to the Catholic Church after being away for about 4 years, it was the discovery of the Sacramental aspect of our life in Christ that was so profound to me. My body, my fertility, my struggles and my desire for marriage finally made sense in light of the Sacraments.  It was the beginning of the healing process for me. 

The Armor of God 

Scripture is clear that in order to fight against discouragement and temptation, we are to put on the Armor of God. As Catholics, our armor is not limited to scripture.  We have a whole cache of weapons, namely the Sacraments, which strengthen us and infuse Grace into our souls.  Through the Sacraments, our relationship with Jesus is expressed and experienced with our whole body in communion with the Church.

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1131 The Sacraments are efficacious (this means they are actually effective and do something real) signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.”

A “Sacrament,” according to the Baltimore Catechism, is:

“an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.” They are an outward sign of something going on inside of us.  The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.”

Sacraments

I have 10 recommendations for you on how to have a Sacramental Life in Christ.  Note how each one includes your body:

1.  Adoration of our Lord:  I recommend you spend time in Eucharistic Adoration and just listen to Him speak to you.  Sit in His real presence and let Him pour out His love to you and comfort you.  If you are unsure of His real presence, check out John Chapter 6.

2.  Reconciliation:  Go to Confession and get those regrets off of your chest.  Even if you believe you have been forgiven, I promise you that once you confess those sins in the Confessional, you will feel amazing and free.  Our creator God knows that our need for Sacramental Confession has both a Spiritual as well as a Psychological basis. Besides, confession to a priest is very biblical! Once you are in a state of grace again, you are prepared to take Jesus (body, blood, soul and Divinity) into your body (John Chapter 6) at Holy Communion.

“….There is no reason to die a spiritual death when we have this supreme remedy at hand.  Make frequent and devout use of this sacrament.  Not only does it cleanse from grave sin but it helps us avoid venial sins, to see them clearly and receive the graces to repair whatever damage they cause.  You will also practice the virtues of humility, simplicity and charity.  In a single act of contrition you will exercise many virtues.” 

St. Francis de Sales (16th Century Bishop of Geneva)

3.  Mass:  I love the Old Testament!  Especially the specific way the Lord taught the Israelites how to worship Him.  It was very communal and it involved their whole bodies.  Today, we do this through the Mass.  I recommend that you find a parish and start going to Mass.  Even if you have to ease into it, the Lord will welcome you and pour out His grace upon you.  The Mass involves your whole body. Worship Him and kneel before Him.  Confess to Him He that is the Creator and that you are a sinner in need of help by reciting the Creed. Listen to His holy word, Sacred Scripture.

4.  Holy Eucharist:  Once you are in a state of grace from the Sacrament of Confession, you will be prepared to receive the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass.  Hunger, thirst, take and eat.  Present your body to God as a weapon.  He wants an intimate relationship with you.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He makes Himself available to us in the most intimate way. 

“….By adoring and consuming beauty, purity and goodness itself in his divine sacrament, you will become completely beautiful, entirely holy and perfectly good.  Go to Holy Communion as often as you can…” 

St. Francis de Sales

In addition to the above, I recommend these 6 habits and practices:

5.  Scripture and Holy Books:  Sign up to receive the daily readings in your email.  Bathe your mind in Sacred Scripture.  Meditate upon it and allow God to speak to you through His sacred words.  Here is a good site for that:   Also, read holy books listed here.

6.  Daily Prayer:  Prayer conforms our mind and will to God’s will.

7.  Serve:  Apply your body in service and for the Kingdom.  For example, when I was single, I taught 7th grade Catechism.  What is your passion?  Ask the Lord to show you how to apply your body in His service.

8.  Chastity:  The enemy is cunning and he knows that our desire to be loved by a man is a weakness. Think about the ways he has deceived you in the past.  What type of men weaken you?  What drives you to make decisions which are not in line with your dignity?

9.  Holy Companions:  Seek out friends that are like-minded and who are also committed to the Lord and His precepts. 

10.  Fast:  This is something I failed to take advantage of until recently.  I still am weak in this area of spiritual warfare.  What I have learned is that we can fast from anything that we love and the Lord will bless us. 

“…Among many others are these four fruits:  fasting fortifies the spirit, mortifying the flesh and its sensuality; it raises the spirit to God; it fights concupiscence and gives power to conquer and deaden its passions; in short, it disposes the heart to seek to please only God with great purity of heart…” 

St. Francis de Sales

God love and bless you!

p.s. Please check out all my posts listed by category here!

If you have enjoyed my blog, please “like” my Facebook Page, The Veil and sign up to receive my blog posts automatically by clicking the rectangular “Follow“ button. Please check me out and follow me on Twitter too! Thank you!

Freedom in Self-Control

My plan this week was to start a series called, Dear Cindy where I share Reader’s questions and my answers to those question.  Well, I created the first post of the series and as promised, sent it to the Reader for her approval.  I changed her name, his name and all other identifying information.  But, she asked me to either not post it or wait.  She had some additional information for me. 

I share this with you for two reasons.  First, to explain why my post is a little different from what was planned this week.  Next, to let you know that you can be completely confident that if you write to me, I will not post your question without your permission. 

The reason I think the Dear Cindy series will be so good is that you girls have many of the same questions and you can learn from and inspire each other.  But, what is more important to me is keeping this ministry focused on the individual person and not betraying the trust that is required when you share your heart with me.

Dear Cindy

         Since I do not have a post this week, I thought I would share with you the beautiful words from a Doctor of the Church who is my inspiration, Dietrich von Hildebrand:

“Living a pure life requires the strength of self-possession, fortitude and temperance. Purity can only be thought of in association with the virtue of love. Chastity, rather than being a negative virtue, seeks to affirm the person in every situation. Only the chaste man and woman are capable of true love. If you are not able to control yourself, you cannot give yourself, for you cannot give what you do not have. Sexual morality is rooted in the way God designed us.

Purity is a spiritual power that frees love from selfishness and aggression. Chastity cannot exist without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices and to wait. Virtue comes from spiritual strength.

Chastity is a call to save sex until marriage and live with your body, mind and soul in harmony. The virtue of chastity brings our sexual appetite into harmony with reason, and creates purity in mind, heart and conscience. Purity prepares our souls for the capacity to love. All Christians, whether married or single, are called to the virtue of chastity.

As our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are made in the image of God, we are told to glorify God with our bodies. The body is of great worth in Christianity. God came to us in flesh and blood and revealed how important the body is to the human condition. Within our bodies we have many passions. Either we are able to control them or they will control us. Freedom is found by self-control.

God love and bless you!

p.s. Check out all my posts listed by category here!

If you have enjoyed my blog, please “like” my Facebook Page, The Veil and sign up to receive my blog posts automatically by clicking the rectangular “Follow“ button. Please check me out and follow me on Twitter too! Thank you!

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Very Inspiring Blog AwardA little while back, Amanda from Worthy of Agape nominated me for what I thought was the Liebster Award.  But as I tracked the award back to its origin, it looks like the actual award is not the Liebster Award. Instead, it is the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! Thank you, Amanda!

I chose to respond to this award today in honor of Amanda and the release of her new book, Worthy!  (do you like my color scheme?)

I just know her book is going to be amazing. You can purchase her book here  and at Amazon starting today .  Congratulations Amanda!!

Here are the rules of the award:

  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.  (check)
  2. Post the award image to your page. (check)
  3. Share 7 facts about yourself — fun things, favorites things, humorous things or things that inspire you. (check)
  4. Nominate up to 15 other blogs and invite them to participate. (I did 7 ~ favorite biblical number)

It is fun to follow-up on the links of the other bloggers nominated and make new blogging friends. Enjoy!

7 things that inspire me:

  1. Large Catholic families:  A witness to the Culture of Death!
  2. People who write books and actually get them published!   Yes, that is you Amanda!
  3. Religious Sisters/Brides of Christ:  Radiant!  A witness to the culture of selfishness!
  4. Catholic Seminarians:  Courageous!  A witness for Christ in the world!
  5. My Mom:  Mental Toughness!  Totally Accepting!  Full of Energy!
  6. Catholic Converts:  I am so convicted by their search for truth!  If I were not raised Catholic, would I have searched for truth and found Him in His Church?  I would like to say yes but…don’t know.  Scary.
  7. Gregg:  Unselfish, Generous and Loving husband!  Amazing and Patient Father!

I nominate the following 7 inspiring Catholic bloggers for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I know they will inspire you also:

  1. Sarah at Fumbling Toward Grace  :  One word for Sarah:  Perseverance!
  2. Regina at Catholic Alcoholic  :  Regina’s posts are beautiful, raw, honest and courageous!
  3. Kelsey at Answering The Call   :  Kelsey has answered the call….calling our youth to Christ and His Church.  Awesome!
  4. Meg at Held by His Pierced Hands :  Meg is even more awesome in person but check out her blog and follow her in her hobo life for Christ!
  5. Stephanie at Captive the Heart :  Stephanie is inspiring but she is also the sweetest blogger out there!
  6. Stefanie at A Dreamers Wife  : Stefanie somehow makes the rounds and finds time to read our blogs and encourage us in our Dreams!
  7. Colleen at  Martin Family Moments : Colleen is a mom of 5.  She works outside the home.  Her blog posts are always amazing, and interesting and funny and grammatically correct.  I don’t know how she does it.

Congratulations!  May we, by the grace of God, continue to inspire others and glorify our Lord!