The Modern Day Saint Making Machine

‘Let my eyes stream with tears, day and night without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wounds.  If I walk out in the field, look! Those slain by the sword.  If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger…why have you struck us a blow which cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail.  For a time of healing, but terror comes instead.’
(Jeremiah 14: 17-19)

‘When will it stop’ is the question I ponder every morning as my phone pings with news notifications.  At least 80 dead in a truck attack in Nice.  3 injured in a machete attack in Germany.  A priest martyred in France.  An unceasing, untiring parade of human anguish, sorrow and fear.

So we post inspirational quotes on our social media profiles, possibly send funds to the relief efforts, exchange sentiments over the coffee pot in our office.  Then we go home for the night, sigh, tuck littles into bed and bunker down for the newest tragedy tomorrow.

We have a wound that won’t heal.  We pray for peace but are greeted instead by the news of terror.  For the glory of your name, Lord, deliver us.

No time before now has evil been so accessible, acceptable and available.  Pornography is a click away on the internet, abortions are protected by the law and on demand, and marriage is now defined by legality and not morality.  The reaction that I had to a recent shooting was ‘Only 20 dead?’…life is a commodity and we fail to see the human lives that are slipping away from this earth due to human sin and despair.  The side-effects of our throw away culture.

The pain is on a micro-cosmic level.  The story of the shooter, and how he was bullied as a child.  The individual stories of the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting.  The vocation story of Pere Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit as he stood at the altar for morning mass today.

The pain is on a cosmic level …each action that one human being does ripples and touches the lives of others.  The story of the grandmother who was embraced by the airplane passengers when she found out about the death of her grandson.  The first responders who pull up to the carnage of the latest mass killing and have to try to push the gory images aside as they return home to their families that night. 

But ultimately, it won’t stop this side of Heaven.
We have good reason for falling into despair as we bunker down for the next terror attack.  We can wonder when someone we know will be slain in the streets, or whether our body will ever lay discarded, slumped up and consumed with the effects of human sin.  
Dallas…Paris…Germany…France…Nice…

Day after day we are bombarded with evidence that the world is heart-wrenchingly broken.  Mothers murder their children, airports are riddled with bullets, human beings are objectified, priests beheaded, and our Lord in the Eucharist dishonored.

What better time to become a saint?

There is our alternative to despair….the realization that our desire for sainthood can very well be fulfilled at a much quicker rate than expected.  Each death toll is a string of notes, compiling in a unending ‘Dies Irae‘ reminder that this life is temporary and the next is eternal.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie, my heart like ashes, crushed and dry, assist me when I die. Full of tears and full of dread is that day that wakes the dead, calling all, with solemn blast to be judged for all their past. Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest, grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

Each headline that comes across our Facebook feed or phone notifications reminds us of one thing: we are offered opportunities that saints who have gone before us have never had.  Evil has never been so accessible.  Neither has sanctity.

This modern day culture is a saint making machine.  Look at all of the evil that there is to stand up against.  Beautifully, thankfully, there is more grace and mercy in God than there is sin in humanity.

Tertullian once said ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.’  Are you ready to be saints together?

 

5 Reasons Why You Can’t be a Feminist and Pro-Contraception

Feminism.  It’s a buzzword that I first really delved into last semester while taking a course on gender and communication.  The issue that bothered me towards the end of the semester was that modern feminism is often associated with fight for the pro-choice movement, access to ‘safe and healthy’ abortions and access to contraception.  Upon my understanding of the term feminism, meaning equality between men and women, I found that incredibly ironic and infuriating.  I am anti-abortion, pro-life and anti-contraception.  And I don’t think you can be a feminist and be for any of those issues.  Here are five reasons why you cannot be a feminist and be pro-contraception.

01. All on the woman
Feminism strives for equality between men and women in all areas of life.  This could manifest itself in the fight for equal pay for equal work, but in the sexual lives of feminists, contraception has squished any chances for equality.  When a woman is on the pill, or any other form of oral or surgical contraceptive, she is responsible.  It is up to her to make sure she takes the pill daily or schedules doctors appointments to install or maintain an internal contraceptive.  Meanwhile, men are not filling prescriptions for contraception, and are instead reaping the benefits of contraceptive sex without an investment in a relationship.

Dr. John Littell, an OBGYN, wrote:

“But now, it saddens me to see the effects of the Pill at play in unsuspecting lives. How often have I seen one patient after another frustrated by what has come to be viewed as a “necessary evil” for all women, if they ever hope to be a good wife, a good girlfriend, a good sexual partner. What is so “liberating” or “empowering” about feeling miserable, depressed, increasing one’s risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, blood clots, strokes, and heart disease, while the male partner has not a worry in the world?”

The answer to these issues is not the simply have men fill prescriptions for  male contraceptives.  Rather, a form of family planning that requires the effort of both men and women is the ideal solution.  In this way, both partners can know the health life of the other better and work towards a common goal side by side.  The family planning method that has proven to be successful in this area is Natural Family Planning.  The man and woman chart the woman’s fertility together, and the man becomes hyper-aware of the inner workings of the woman’s fertility system.  In this way, the shared goal of achieving or avoiding conception bonds the couple together, instead of having one or the other feel the weight of the responsibility.

02. Health risks
Feminism should never support something that harms the health of women.  This is why we should fight against the brutality and objectification of social problems such as pornography, sexual trafficking, and female genital mutilation.  However, we can add contraception to that list of issues considered normal in society that actually do great harm to women.

Take for instance The Pill.  In one small, white pill contains the side effects of vision impairment, yeast infections, blood clots, increased risk of strokes, increased chances of breast and ovarian cancer, mood swings and depression. Any of these side effects alone are alarming, but the problem is that any woman who takes an oral contraceptive is at risk for all of them.  The reason for this secrecy around the actual effects of the pill on women’s health is that pregnancy is considered a larger threat to a woman’s life than the issue that the doctor prescribed the contraceptive in the first place.  So while a woman suffers from a higher risk of strokes and cancer, doctors see the benefits of her low risk of pregnancy as a greater good.  

03. Freedom from Oppression 
Oppression results when there is a lack of choices.  When it comes to feminism, the desire for freedom has manifested itself in many ways.  The right to have a voice and choice in the political system through the suffrage movement was the first way feminism strove against oppression of women.

However, in terms of their sexual lives, women’s health is oppressed by the lack of choices that are presented to them in the average medical care center.  In today’s medical offices, women’s health issues are quickly fixed with a contraception prescription. In the visits that I have made to the doctor’s  office for issues such as acne, sever PMS cramping, and fainting spells, each time has resulted in another effort of a doctor or nurse to prescribe the pill.  This leaves women feeling like the only choice they have in terms of answers to their health problems is contraception.  This is oppressive – a lack of choice – since women are not only denied informed about the health risks of contraception, but also denied a conversation about the multitude of answers that could range from vitamin supplements and diet changes to fertility charting and NaPro technology .

Additionally, long-term prescriptions on contraceptives can ruin a woman’s fertility.  Without the ability to conceive children, simply because one has synthetically tricked one’s body into thinking they were pregnant for so long that conception isn’t possible.   This lack of choice in terms of conceiving a child ruins the pill for being pro-woman, and places it into a category of oppressive medication that fuels the anti-women and objectifying state of today’s culture.

04. Natural is Better
In a world where we strive to leave less of a carbon footprint by driving fuel efficient, cars, cleaning with non-chemical cleaning supplies and eating organic, we are still stuffing women’s bodies full of unhealthy chemicals simply for the convenience of sex-on-demand without the results of a pregnancy.

Essentially, when a woman takes birth control pills, she imposes synthetic hormones onto her fertility cycle which is most of the time simply naturally doing what is supposed to do.
Birth control contains estrogen levels.  This hormone tells a woman’s pituitary gland that she is pregnant – which explains a multitude of the side effects of the pill.  Fatigue, nausea, migraines, and general soreness are all experienced by naturally pregnant women.  In the case of women on contraceptives, their body is chemically pregnant but without any of the natural good effects of an actual pregnancy.

05.  Future Women

Although many will lean on the radical feminist and pro-choice view of “my body, my choice,” it turns out that the body of a conceived child is not a woman’s body to oppress.  Women have seen oppression in their political, active and sexual lives in the past, they cannot continue the vicious cycle of oppression (lack of choice) when it comes to the next generation of women.

If all humans, regardless of their sex, have the right to a choice, what about the choices of the unborn child in the womb?  If the unborn baby is a girl, her chances of dying from abortion are steadily climbing.  The contraceptive mentality towards women (in or out of the womb) is the reason for gender-decided infanticide.  For instance, in China, partially due to the one child policy, there are now 120-140 boys for every 100 girls despite the governmental ban on sex-based abortions.  And it’s not just China.  In 2014, The Daily Mail ran a story that claimed women are disappearing on the national census due to sex-based abortion.  They wrote,

“Official figures suggest as many as 4,700 females have disappeared from the latest national census records of England and Wales, raising fears that it indicates the illegal practice of sex-selection abortion has become prevalent in the UK.”

Contraception, and the resulting abortions upon failed contraceptives, are killing women.  Literally.  Both mother and their unborn children are suffering greatly from the effects of objectification of women in what Pope Francis has labeled the ‘throw-away culture’ and what Pope John Paul II talked about when he mentions a cycle of use due to viewing people as things.

No person who claims to be pro-woman and defines themselves with the label of feminism should be pro-contraception.  

I Went on a Dating Fast and it Didn’t Ruin My Love Life

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In January 2016, I went on a dating fast after listening to a talk at a SEEK FOCUS conference.  After multiple conversations with both women and men, I realized that I was fed up with the way that I treated the men in my life.  I was sick of getting caught up into the spiral of mentally stalking them, planning my wedding with them before they knew my name, and using them for my emotional benefit.  I realized that I wasn’t ready for a relationship if someone was to ask me out because I was so desperate for an eternal love that I was ready to stuff temporary, human love into my life to fill the gap in my heart.

Dating fasts are a pretty hot topic.  Some say you should avoid them at all costs.  Others recommend it at the first sign of relationship woes.  However, I benefited immensely from my five month dating fast and would offer a word of advice advice to those wondering about how good dating fasts can really be.  The success of your dating fast,and the success of your future relationships, will depend on your level of intentionality.

You cannot have an un-intentional dating fast and hope it ends in an intentional relationship.  If you do not put time into building the relationship between you and God, the subsequent human relationships will follow that lead.  Ultimately, you can have an intentional, God-filled dating fast or you can have a dating fast that disguises the fact that you just want to take a break from dating in general.

My dating fast was not a success because it ended with me meeting the man that I am now engaged to. My dating fast was successful because it helped me discern what God was calling me to in life. At the end of the five months that I took off of dating, I was a better version of myself and much better prepared for a relationship…and it just so happens that I met Joseph a couple days afterward.

“The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness is the illusion of finding life by excluding God.” (JPII)

If my dating fast had not been 100% wrapped up in a desire for happiness from God instead of a human lover, it would have failed.  It would have gone on for months of sinking despair, wondering if I was ever going to find or be found by someone, and planning out my life with seventeen cats in a mountaintop cabin.

We’re made for more than what the world is offering us. I am tired of sweeping up the broken pieces of the hearts of people that I love because of the problem of use in today’s dating culture.  We’re surrounded by the hook up phenomena, bombarded with opportunities through apps on our phone, pornography on our laptops and attention at the bars. It’s easy to find someone to spend the night with in order to get a quick fix of the emotions of love.  It’s accessible to find someone to use.

To pursue someone’s heart with intentionality and clarity is challenging.  To form a relationship where there isn’t a shred of use is counter-cultural.  Maybe that’s why so many people decide to throw in the towel and abandon the idea of a romance that leads you to Heaven.

The relationship that our hearts yearn for is not perfect.  It takes hard conversations, immense and incredible vulnerability and trust.  There are moments of laughing so hard you think your heart will burst, and moments of soul-wrenching pain.  As a dear friend once told me, “The greater your capacity for the love of another person, the greater your capacity for suffering because of the other person.” But there is God in every moment if you let Him in – and not only let Him in, but make Him the center of your relationship.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to date in today’s world.  No amount of google searches or relationship advice books or even blogging will prepare you for the human, messy, rawness of dating another person.  But the relationship that you can be assured of is your relationship with God.  Invest in Him first, put Him in the center and the rest will follow.

Dating fasts are not a quick-fix answer, nor are they right for everyone.  They should not be used to avoid dating, discernment or healing.  If done intentionally, dating fasts offer an incredible opportunity for your soul to be pursued by the ultimate lover  – God.  In doing so, your souls capacity to love will expand and effect how you treat everyone else in your life. Regardless of whether you decide to go on a dating fast or not, set your eyes on Christ and fall in love with the maker of your soul.

“The capacity to love is determined by the fact that man is ready to seek the good consciously with others, to subordinate himself to this good because of others, or to subordinate himself to others because of this good.” (JPII, Love and Responsibility) 

 

The Filtered Life

For my birthday, Joseph got me a new phone.  Among many great features that comes with this phone, (including a fiancee that knows how it works so much better than I do and is built in tech-support), this means my snapchat finally has filters.  And while that may seem to be an insignificant factor, I’ve had filter-envy for quite a while, since my old phone did not support the app’s filter features.

Filter Free

So I went to town and filtered the heck out of one photo. After a couple of swipes, I realized that what I was left with was a girl who was me, but not quite.  Her skin was smoother.  Her face was a little thinner.  It was like Chloe, the improved version.  And I didn’t like it.

I’m a perfectionist, and so I should adore the filtered life.  No one can see my flaws, my not-so-hot makeup application skills and that spot of acne that I’ve been dealing with this month.  But instead of falling in love with this perfected, digital version of me, I realized that the more I have become comfortable with who I am (imperfect flaws and all),  the less I want to see this “perfect Chloe.”

In some ways, the filters that I can swipe onto my photos remind me of how much I haven’t limited filtering just to my snapchat or instagram.  Often I find myself filtering my off-screen life as well.  I tell people that I’m “doing fine” and bury stress deeper and deeper in an attempt to make it look like I’ve got it all together.  I avoid heart to heart conversations because something may come up that makes me uncomfortable.

I’m guilty of this filtering.  A month ago, I decided to not accept my graduate school interview due to future dreams of being a stay-at-home-mom.  But when people ask me what my plans are for graduation, I usually offer them what they want to hear. “Well, I’m not quite sure yet.”  #filtering….why am I afraid to boldly state the truth? That I love littles and I’m looking forward to a day when I can see Joseph and myself in the faces of our kids? That graduate school was a safety zone for me, and not challenging enough for the radical life I know God has in store?

What would happen if we removed all those filters from our lives? If we lived fully and without the gauge of likes on our photos and comments of others?  How much our lives would change.  So my challenge today is not to post an unedited photo of yourself.  You can do that and not have a shred of change in your off-screen life. Instead, take off a filter today in your interactions with others.  Be vulnerable.  Admit fault.  Ask for help.  Because people are desperate to get to know you…the real you.  The Chloe who is desperately afraid of fish (I know, it’s an irrational fear), is on her fourth cup of coffee today and is turning off her snapchat filters is much more of an interesting person than that “Perfect Chloe” who can be posted to a snapchat story.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

 

Bug Bites and a Dose of Humility

engaged!

So we’re engagement-picture official….we’re getting married.

Joseph and I spent the day together out of town, and returned to the house about forty minutes before we were supposed to meet our photographer.  I ran into my parent’s house, or rather, the sauna.  The air conditioning was shot, and the temperature was easily at 85 degrees inside.  I was melting.  I could’t find any of my clothes, shoes and all those things that I should have set out the night before to make things easier.  As my status quickly slipped to melting-puddle-of-emotions, I could see what I was doing – I was stressing out over something as small as what my hair looked like or whether my dress was ironed.

I ran haphazardly to the car, misplaced my checkbook and sighed.  Joseph asked me how I was doing, he could see I was stressed.  He was right – and it was all over something small.  So I shook my head and began to realize the frivolousness of all my worrying.

In a last ditch effort to fix chapped lips, I pulled out a tube of lipstick from my purse, which had been sitting in a hot car all day.  Upon opening the tube, liquid lipstick fell out onto my dress, leaving a magenta splotch.  I started laughing because if I couldn’t see the humor in it all, I was going to break.

And all I could think was “Thank you Lord, for keeping me humble.”  I had done all I could to look ‘perfect,’ but my human messiness kept getting in the way.  I realized that I didn’t need to look perfect.  Once I paused and pulled back from the situation, I saw the beauty of it.  I was taking engagement pictures with a man who I am head-over-heels in love with.  That day we had spent the whole day together on a date that he had custom made exactly to the desires of my heart.  And I was getting married to him.  I could care less about the fact that I was dripping in sweat.  That magenta stain on my dress matched the purple in his shirt, it was all good.

And then we got a beer afterward and the night finished beautifully.  I sank into bed around midnight and couldn’t stop smiling.  God is so good, despite my worries.  I’m an incredibly blessed woman, no doubt about it.

Then I woke up the next morning covered in red bug bites.  Covered may be under-exaggerating.  I looked like a red-spotted cheetah, covered in spots from my stomach to upper thighs.  The pictures in the field had turned out incredible, but the little bugs in the tall grass must have found us pretty attractive too, or at least pretty tasty.

I scratched and scratched, tried to offer it up and went back to scratching.  Pretty soon my skin was raw, bug bites were sticking to my clothes and I was miserable. I made a grocery store run for Cortizone, and found it to be the best $5 I have ever spent in my life.

That night I caught up with some dear friends of mine.  All the coffee shop tables were taken (what can I say, everyone has good coffee shop selecting taste) so we wandered outside and splayed out over a bench and on the sidewalk.  And midway through the chat I found I was sitting in the middle of an ant pile.  I can’t make this up, you guys.

So  last night I sank into a an oatmeal bath, dosed up on children’s aspirin and looking like a strawberry pop tart (the one with sprinkles on it).  And I realized something amazing – besides the fact that oatmeal not only tastes good AND relieves the throbbing of severe bug bites.  There is a beauty in the mess of human life.

While our engagement picture looks stunning (am I marrying the most handsome man in the world or what?), the beauty of the background story makes me smile even more.  We often get caught up in pristine appearances, the lie of perfectionism and making sure every hair is in place.  We squish human mistakes down and ignore flaws so we can maintain the false sense of having it all together.  But a few hundred bug bites and a lipstick stain on my dress have taught me different.  The memories are made in the mess…and we should enjoy life to the fullest despite, and perhaps because of,  the little hiccups along the way.

Life isn’t perfect, people (me included) are messy.  Let’s enjoy it and be thankful for a God that loves us regardless of our messes.

 

21 Things I Learned Before 21

mountaintop

When I was five years old, I always thought of twenty-one as the year where you actually became an adult.  At that age you were tall, had life figured out, and your driver’s license faced a different way.  Well, I turn twenty -one here in less than forty-eight hours.  I’m still short, I by no means have it all figured out, and I’m dreading the trip to the DMV.  However, I have learned quite a bit before my twenty-first.

1) Never underestimate the little things

2) Life lived outside of your comfort zone is pretty incredible

3) Trusting God is one of the scariest and most rewarding things possible

4) Christ-centered friendships are a necessity of life

5)  Discernment takes action

6) Your family is always there but that doesn’t mean you can neglect them or take them for granted

7) It’s okay to admit that you need help sometimes

8) Comparison is the thief of joy

9) Life is too short to start being a saint tomorrow

10) Your life won’t look like Pinterest and that’s perfectly fine.

11) Be yourself – God doesn’t make mistakes.

12) Your taste buds do actually change (thank you mom) and spinach is much better in your twenties than it was in middle school.  Trust me – just throw some cheese on it.

13) You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a sunset from the top of a mountain.

14) Change the oil in your car.  Or, have do it the way I do and have someone change it for you.  Either way – change it.  Your engine (and wallet) will thank you.

15) Mom was also right about flossing.  And mouthwash while we’re at it.

16) People are messy, but God is so much bigger than any mess..

17) Silence is a necessity for conversation with God – and by conversation I mean where you listen more than you talk.

18) There is no situation that an hour in adoration does not make incredibly better.

19) Don’t ever be afraid to speak to truth (with kindness).  You may be the only one brave enough to talk first, but there may be others just waiting for someone to say the first word.

20) Conquer your fear. Even if it’s something ridiculous as fish (stop judging I can sense it through the screen) and conquering your fear means walking through an aquarium and looking at catfish.

21) Trust God and Be Not Afraid (Okay, that’s really two things, but are you really going to argue with a JPII quote?)