Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Marked Like Cain

"At the beginning of Dante's Purgatorio,
the Pilgrim discovers seven Ps scratched across his brow
─one for each of the seven deadly sins (peccati).
Through his laborious climb up the seven-storied mountain,
one by one, the P's are wiped away.
It is the image of a soul saved, but still struggling free of sin's sevenfold lack of love.
Lent charts us on a laborious course up a similar Mount Purg
And at the base today we too find our faces begrimed.
Our ashes make public confession that we stand stained by our wicked deeds.
We have earned the dusty death wage of sin.
Yet, like the guilty Cain, who received a mysterious mark from the hand of the Lord,
 this sign we wear is also God's seal of protection (cf. Gn 4:15).
We are branded today with the sign of the cross, as sheep of the Lord's own pasture,
so that the devil (who would make on us his own mark of the beast) will know
to keep his thieving hands off.
The sign of the death due for our sins thus becomes the emblem of hope
─if we believe in the cross and repent in dust and ashes.
Ezekiel foresaw this mystery in a vision when he saw the saved,
who grieve over the sins of Jerusalem, having an X written upon their brow (Ez 9:4)."

Reflection based on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Father Anthony Giambrone, O.P.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lessons Last Year's Lent Taught Me

Up until last year, Lent had always been a struggle for me.
It wasn't because I did not like it or understand the purpose for it.
Quite the opposite really.
Lent was attractive to me.
I wanted to enter fully into the season
and reap the benefits of the fasting, almsgiving, and prayer for which it called.
It seemed like nothing I could do was good enough.
There was a chasm between my sacrifice of lack-of-caffeine headaches
and Christ's wounded bonded on the cross.
Then a priest explained the role of fasting in a Christian life
as a way of disciplining ourselves in small ways so we could build up our will to overcome larger temptations and the pieces fell into place for me.
 I wrote a reflection on it here.

Another thing I learned last year was the benefit of offering your practice up for an intention.
I study Theology and the fact that our little sufferings can be joined with Christ's 
is awe-inspiring and humbling. This is such a beautiful gift.
I will be honest, however, when I am struggling not to cry because my head feels like it is in a vice and the only known source of comfort would be a tiny cup of caffeine 
(so little no one would notice says the voice in my head)
I have a really hard time reflecting on the mystery of redemptive suffering
and saying the Lord's name in the form of a pious prayer.
It is so much easier for me to say I am going through this pain for an intention,
 normally a specific person.
I can picture the person in my head.
I can call to mind my desire for their well being.
I can remind myself that I care for them 
and would do even more difficult things for them.
Breaking the intention of my sacrifice down from something a little abstract 
to something more tangible
gives me the inspiration to continue,
 and in the end I walk away with a better understanding of the bigger meaning.

Arithmosophic Cross - Salvador Dali

These lessons transformed my Lent
and I hope they will help you too!

What lessons have you learned from Lents gone by?

Happy Mardi Gras!


Linking up with the #BISsisterhood and Tuesday Talk


Friday, February 13, 2015

Full of Surprises, Flowers, Babies, and Brides

This week has been full leaving my heart humbled and with so much to be grateful.
B joined me this weekend for a short work trip and attending the Edith Stein Project conference at Notre Dame. It was so nice to have him with me to show him first hand a part of my job, as well as the conference which took up a good deal of my time in undergrad.
On Sunday, the girls and I attended a postponed Super Bridal Sunday event thrown by a family friend at her shop. We sampled some cake flavors, booked a block of hotel rooms, and purchased the flower girls' baskets and ring bearer's pillow, and finalized the invitation. Things are coming together!
I love my cousin.

My amazing co-workers threw me a surprise early bridal shower complete with shower games, presents, and lots of ribbons for the rehearsal bouquet (none of which I broke).
Yesterday morning, I was greeted by a picture of the adorable face of a friend's newborn daughter. Ever since she announced her due date was in February I had teased her about the baby sharing my birthday thinking the odds a little slim.
Well my new birthday twin is beautiful and I cannot wait to meet her!
I love musicals.
B has barely seen any and would rather watch a comedy or action flick.
A birthday viewing of The Music Man was a sweet birthday gift.
Musical lovers out there, do you have a hard time staying seated? I wanted to jump in to the song and dance, but I didn't want to ruin the experience for B's first viewing, so I was left joining Professor Harold Hill in conducting the music from my seat.
Surprise flowers made their way to my office this afternoon.
They're still waiting to bloom, but I think I'll keep them and the delivery boy too.
Linking up for Seven Quick Takes again.
Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Next Thirty Years

I think I'll take a moment celebrate my age
End of an era and the turning of a page
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

In my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I'm doin' here in my next thirty years

For my next thirty years I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years
Thank you Tim McGraw (and his talented writers) for giving me words
to celebrate this day.
Leaving your twenties behind is an awkward feeling.
I think a lot of it has to do with the glamorization of being young, wild, and free which views women's worth ending when they have the slightest first sign of age.
I never made a 30 before 30 list,
mainly because I felt it would put too much stress in my life and support the
"my life ends at thirty" attitude.
An attitude which, I am sad to say, crept into my thought
and I have battled the past few months.
I went to bed in a less than excited mood.
And I woke up.
My life had not ended.
Nothing really had changed,
but a number,
and the attitude with which I greet it.

2015 is going to be a good year.
I can't think of a better year to begin my next thirty years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Not too Sweet Valentine Sweets

The Wizard of Oz was a favorite movie of mine as a young girl.
As Dorothy entered the wonderful world of color film,
my heart was stolen by her wonderful, glittering ruby slippers.
I have held a healthy love of red, sparkles, whimsy (and shoes) ever since.
Pretty much everything in relationship with Valentine's Day is on my list of favorite things
and one reason why I adore February so much.
Now I know some of us do not enjoy the mushiness and pomp of it all
or are bogged down in winter blues,
so here are some ideas of material signs of affection that do not glitter xoxo,
but rather hint at the upcoming Spring.

A light scarf is a great transition piece from Winter to Spring.
I love the airy feel to this scarf.
Blush Velvet Applique Flowers Pillow
A bouquet of flowers that will not wilt!
Can you imagine a couch full of blush and neutral pillows?
Harper Clutch in White | Vera Bradley
This clutch in white is a dream!
And we're allowed to dream, right?
Something about it makes me think of Easter dresses.
To Have and To Hold: A Daily Marriage Devotional
Speaking of Easter,
something that will help you grow in your relationship during Lent makes a thoughtful gift.
I received this book at a bridal shower
and I am so excited to begin praying through it with B.
Sometimes you just have to embrace the corniness.
If you must, it might as well be in cookie form.
Happy Wednesday!
P.S. I'm linking up with Jenna and you should too.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

7 on 7 in 7

We made it!
This is my 7th post for our 7 in 7 challenge!


I am so glad Lindsay and I teamed up to support and challenge each other this week.
Not only did I enjoy writing more, the community from the support of friends, 
and sense of accomplishment, but I also learned a lot.
I hope you have enjoyed it too.

If you blog (or use any form of social media really), 
I highly recommend you try doing a mini-challenge like this.
 Here are seven reasons why:

1. Practice makes perfect.
 This was a big one for me.
The more you practice a skill the easier it becomes and the more you grow.
Writing in spurts with long breaks in between is something I know hampered my blogging last year. This challenge helped me hit the ground running (Have you ever wondered where this saying came from? Something I need to look up later).

Builds confidence.
Flowing from #1, the more you do something the more your confidence will grow.

3. Builds discipline.
I know that many of my resolutions that I do not break down into smaller steps end up being abandoned because I got through week one.
Then the doubts creep in and motivation waivers.
Limiting the challenge to a week makes the task more manageable.
Planning to be able to achieve my week's goal taught me some of the discipline I needed to continue on after the challenge.
4. Edits and generates ideas.
The more I wrote the more ideas came to me.
As my list of ideas grew I felt empowered to edit out the ho-hum ones 
and dig deeper for the topics that excite and inspire me. 

5. Nips perfectionism in the bud.
I cannot tell you how often I have started a post, or maybe wrote the whole thing,
and walked away frustrated because I could not express my idea perfectly. 
The deadline pushed me a little more to get over myself and share even if it wasn't perfect.
Allowing myself to post seven times within seven days instead of once every day was very freeing. I could forgive myself for not posting on Tuesday and move forward without being bogged down by guilt or embarassment for missing a day.

6. Builds community.
Having you all cheering me on, commenting and sharing my work has been so amazing!
I am so grateful for each of you and for the opportunity blogging brings for connecting us.
I also have to give a shout out to Lindsay. She is such an amazing cheerleader. It has been such a blessing to continue to grow in our friendship through this challenge.

7. It is fun.
I enjoy writing. Spending this week focused on writing was refreshing.
It was like a break from the daily grind. 
It reminded me that this blog is a hobby and if it becomes work, what is the point?

A fun reward at the end to celebrate is also a bonus.
Time for a little movie viewing for me!

Let me know if you decide to do your own challenge.
I'd love to be your cheerleader.


Wedding Chat

I do not want to be one of those brides that all she talks about is
 me, myself, and my wedding.
For all former brides, you understand how hard that is;
and for my dear ones still waiting, I underestimated how hard it really would be.
It is just sitting there, front in center, right in the front of your brain, between your eyes, 
on the tip of your tongue, and touching every nerve. 
All your senses are consumed in it and they can't seem to think, see, hear, taste or feel, without first going through some sort of wedding filter.
It is kind of like when you fall in love for the first time, 
or when you are waiting to fall in love, or waiting to be engaged, 
or waiting to find out you're pregnant, or waiting for the baby to arrive 
(the final two I have merely observed, obviously).

At first I was shy about talking too much about weddings here,
I did not want to be wedding consumed and turn away anyone.
I still do not want that, but this is the stage of life I am in and I desire to share openly with you about finding the beauty in all things and relishing it.
So I will be sharing some more wedding focused posts in the future.
I want the specific details of our wedding to remain private
 and special for our guests and us.
So I will be speaking in general terms and ideas to a certain extent, some of which we may not be using at all; so final decisions and actual progress are going to be under wraps to a certain extent.
I will be leaving out vendors names, especially ones we do not contract.
If you are in the area, however, and want a review, 
I am happy to share this with you personally. 
This way we can all wait in anticipation together for the final result but you can join in on all the fun of the planning and dreaming involved.

I have some ideas for posts already.

Anything you are curious about or think I should cover?
I'd love to hear your ideas!

And to help get us started,
here's a sneak peek of our engagement shoot.


Friday, February 6, 2015

What I'm Grateful For...

I am joining Kelly for another round of quick takes on what I am grateful for this week.

1. Health after a nasty stomach bug
2. My co-workers and the lunch conversations which brighten up each day.
"Sometimes when I see a mother driving her mini-van and she is all put together, skinny, and perfect I wonder if she is on meth."
"What?! Why?!"
"Did you know how many women use meth to stay skinny? Tons of them!
I saw a documentary on it.
Sometimes in church my mind wanders and I wonder if I am sitting next to a serial killer.
I think I may watch too much crime tv..."
I think we all can agree with that statement.
3. The unexpected surprise of a grown up snow day this week.
4. Good news to celebrate with family and a good friend.
5. Meeting up with an old college friend that is new to the area.
6.  Honeymoon planning :)
7. For chiropractors and that I am not the age this oh-so-accurate quiz says I act.
I felt like I was getting old, but this is slightly ridiculous.
Check in tomorrow for a double feature.
I have two more posts to master our 7 in 7 challenge.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

NAS: Checking Boxes

I have never joined in for the Not Alone Series, 
a link up intended to build and support single Catholic women. 
I honestly did not know much about it until after we were engaged 
and my focus shifted to preparing for the next stage in our lives. 
As Lindsay and I prepared for our 7 posts in 7 days challenge, 
she invited me to join her in this series until we say, "I do". 
I loved this week's prompt and hope you enjoy this new little series on the blog every once in awhile.
What are the qualities and characteristics that you are looking for in your future husband? We have talked about what we don’t want, but it’s good to have an idea of those things that are important to us. Discerning religious life? This applies to communities, as well! 

If you would have asked a teenage Christina what she was looking for in a spouse 
her answer would have been something like: 
"tall, handsome, on fire for his Catholic faith, funny, smart, older than me...
Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant combined." 
I would, like most teenage girls, have a checklist for ridiculous details of his likes and dislikes accompanied by high expectations of how much he would adore me 
and how many butterflies I would need to feel in order to know it was true love and he was the one.

Then it happened. I met and began dating a young man that fit everything on my list. 
I remember telling a friend that our relationship, how we met, our first date, 
everything was like a fairy tale. 
It was perfect.
But then it wasn't.
It was perfect on paper. 
Despite all my dream boxes checked and all the butterflies felt, we broke up and moved on.

I learned something valuable then. A broad list is a good starting point, but it is not the end all be all. Lists can change and sometimes they change when you meet the person not on your list. 
This isn't to say that you shouldn't have an idea of what you are looking for in a spouse,
I think you should, 
but to be open to learning what you are looking for in your spouse as you discern.

I dated a few boys seriously and went on many dates before B and I began seeing each other. 
From those relationships I discovered qualities that were more important to me 
and some deal-breakers I had not foreseen prior.
 Even in my relationship with B I can see God fulfilling my desires in ways I knew 
and ways I was unaware. It is exciting to see this process continue as we grow through our engagement and I know it will only continue in marriage.

What was I  looking for in a future spouse?
The answer is simple:
my Saint Joseph. 
Someone humble, kind, wise, desiring a family, able to put others first, seeking after God, with a sense of humor and love of life.
I will not lie, the Jimmy Stewart-Cary Grant qualities combined in one person 
are still pretty high. ;)
I just see them through a (hopefully) more mature light.

And because I know he will ask...
what are some of the things that I did not know I was looking for, but fill a spot in my heart?

I am a planner. I plan to plan.
B is a bit more spontaneous.
Okay that is an understatement, but you get the picture.
Some of my favorite memories and our best conversations have come from spontaneous moments.
Finding someone that was trustworthy was always a high priority,
but I never knew how important it would be to be with someone that returned that trust offering the same vulnerability to the other and integrity in honoring that trust.
This is so very key, especially as we move towards marriage.

 I can worry and stress myself out with the best of them.
He calls me to worry less, slow down, and relax.
He reminds me of the good and to hope for it even when I cannot see it.
I could go on and on.
Thank you for letting me gush a little.
I am so grateful to God for bringing us together and fulfilling my heart's desires.
His list was so much better than my own anyway.
Linking up with Jen and Morgan.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winter Survival: Dryness

There is no question about it, the winter weather is here and not going anywhere soon.
I adore snow.
One of my favorite things is strolling through the wonderland
created from a snowfall on my ordinary surroundings.
There is something so magical about it.
Despite my enchantment with this season, there are some drawbacks. 
I am surrounded by moisture and yet my skin and hair become quite the opposite.
Here are my five favorites to beat the winter dryness.
Vaseline Lip Therapy
Vaseline Lip Therapy Original
My lips have a tendency to chap, but this winter was the first time it ever led to bleeding.
My mom recommended Vaseline Lip Therapy to me and boy was she right
(of course, she is a mom, I should never have doubted).
The tiny tub it comes in is also adorable and doubles as a great conversation starter ;)
Cetaphil Store
This is a two for one.
I have super sensitive and troubled skin and have tried a lot of products
that make my skin break out, dry, and/or oily.
I have been very happy with Cetaphil's Daily Facial Cleanser. It is gentle while not drying.
I use it in the shower after allowing the steam to open up my pores for a deeper clean feel.
I also love the gentle hydration of Cetaphil's Moisturizing Cream.
You can feel the moisture in it.
My skin absorbs it quickly without leaving me with the feeling
 like I have to wait half an hour before I touch anything or get dressed.
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer
Dramatically Different <BR>Moisturizing Lotion+
Ladies that shop Clinique you are probably very familiar with this moisturizer. It comes in almost every single gift. When I was younger (and didn't think I needed the extra help), I would purchase my foundation or mascara at gift time and use every other product, but this one. I sing to a different tune these days and rejoice that this bonus can last me at least 3 months. It provides moisture without oil and my face feels soft and smooth.
Neutrogena Triple Moisture
Triple Moisture Cream Lather Shampoo
I started using this shampoo and conditioner a couple months ago and have been very pleased with the results. It isn't one of those moisturizing shampoos that only makes your hair lovely for a day. I tend to shampoo every 2-3 days and was worried at first that this shampoo may call for a shorter duration between washings. When I was sick last week I went 4 days and honestly it was only because I needed to wash the sickness out of me.
Boar Bristle Brush
Wigo Cushion Boar Bristle Wood Brush
You don't have to brush your hair 100 strokes a day, but daily brushing is important. When I was noticing the dryness of my hair, I went back to my grandmother's words of wisdom and bought myself a boar bristle brush. The natural fibers of the brush help distribute your natural oils throughout your hair. This aids in the health of your hair as well as protecting it from the environment.  Following Grandmother's advice, I brush my hair before bed and in the morning. The shine of my hair improved instantly.
Have you tried any of these before?
What are your tips for beating winter dryness?
Make sure to visit Jenna and the rest for more favorites.

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