Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I do believe in magic

and in miracles and in divine mercy. I believe in the power of saving grace and in life giving love. I believe the best way to learn to love is by looking to the cross and by bearing our crosses the same way Jesus did -- with patience, humility, forgiveness, boundless mercy, and eternal love. 

This past Sunday was Divine Mercy Sunday and the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII so Lighthouse Catholic Media was giving away free mp3 talks Thursday through Sunday of this past week. Today I listened to one by Fr. Jason Brooks called the Saving Power of Divine Mercy. Whenever I listen to a talk at work it is usually good, but I almost always need to listen to it again since I tend to work when I'm at work (who would've thought?). I did pick up the key things though that Jesus seems to be reminding me of on a daily basis (sometimes I don't always listen). He teaches me about love and He teaches me to trust in Him. Again, I was reminded that love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. My love needs to exemplify Jesus' love in all those ways. I always wish and pray that I was better at loving. Forgiveness and humility are part of love and sometimes those are really hard. It would be nice to never get angry and never be impatient. These are things, especially the patience, that I need to work on daily. He also reminded me to trust in Him. Jesus, I trust in you is a phrase I hear reiterated in many of the mp3s and CDs I listen to. He reminds me to trust Him and I don't always listen. It's part of my weakness. I can only ask for His strength and His mercy to help me overcome my temptations and forgive me for my sin... for all those times when I say that my will is better than His will. It's really nice to have someone who loves you enduringly and endlessly and who is always calling you home. Jesus is awesome like that. He loves me so much (and you) that no matter our transgression He will never stop seeking to bring us back home to Him. He won't force us to love Him and follow Him, but He rejoices when we do. Who could ever be a greater example of love?

This past weekend I went to one of my favorite places on earth -- Disney World. Here are some pictures of my trip. My new Vera Bradley Disney bag, my magic band with Disney accessories, Anna and Elsa and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in the festival of fantasy parade (I got really excited about the Tangled float. That's why the picture isn't very good. OOPS), and a Tigger I drew at Hollywood Studios!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Then after lunch it's puzzles, and darts, and baking,

paper mache, a bit of ballet and chess, pottery and ventriloquy, candle making, then I'll stretch, maybe sketch, take a climb, sew a dress..."

"and I'll keep wondering, and wondering, and wondering, and wondering... when will my life begin?"

Lately, Disney songs have been on repeat in my head. Specifically music from Tangled and Frozen. I don't think any day can be considered a bad one when Disney lyrics are playing in your mind. Isn't it funny how sometimes the songs that become our favorites resonate with our hearts and minds? Any emotion we could ever feel has a song that portrays that feeling and it becomes a part of us. That's how it is for me at least. Through the ages if 14-17, I was convinced Taylor Swift could be my best friend. Even though I didn't own a guitar, she knew that angst I felt at being rejected by a crush. If I had a guitar, the teardrops would have fallen on that. As the young, naive girl I was, she helped me see that I am beautiful, and that you are beautiful, and "someday we were really going to be someone." It was easy to relate to her love of country music and sparkly dresses, her portrayal of a magical "love story", and her understanding that there was that person who was "just another picture to burn."

This isn't meant to be a Taylor Swift post at all actually. I mostly stopped listening to her music once she became more pop and less country. There was one song ("Begin Again"), though, that resonated with me when I was going through a heartbreak that turned into the most wonderful blessing. It portrayed what I was going through at the time. It gave me hope to a new possibility of love. It taught me that there is going to be that person who loves us for everything we are and who shows us that love every single day. In the song she has a line stating "I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did." I don't know what Taylor Swift intended, but I know what I heard. Be yourself and find that person who is going to love you for who that is. Don't compromise. Love is joyful and should be full of life and laughter. I am so blessed to have found that. When I thought I was going through the worst heartbreak, I was given a blessing greater than anything I could have possibly asked for -- I got to know my future husband. He teaches me what love is every single day and he thinks I'm funny (well I think I'm funny, but I'm sure he would agree). Life is wonderful that way. Our pain often leads us to greater joy later on in the journey. Sometimes, our trials and our tribulations, our heartbreaks or our failures are God's way of saying "I have something better for you." We have to be patient and trusting in those times and we have to be faithful because God will never fail us. I have proof that He knows what He is doing because I get to marry Brent in September.

Since God is faithful and He has a plan, why do we (me, I, me, me, me... pointing to myself on this one) have doubts or times where we don't trust Him? Why do we (again me) hope to reach out for tomorrow when we haven't finished what we are tasked with today? Why are there times when we wonder "when will my life begin?"

When I was younger, all I wanted to be when I grew up was everything. I practiced my autograph (and my soccer) from the ages of 8 until 13 because I was going to be the next Mia Hamm. I was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a writer, a pastry chef, an entrepreneur, and an actress. I was going to speak out against injustices such as abortion. I wanted to do everything and part of me still does. Maybe I want to be all those things because one day I can. Mechanical engineer by day, writer (blogger), pastry chef (frozen-meal cooker), and doctor (can find the band-aids and tylenol) by night. Maybe I want to be all these things because I like learning and knowing. Knowledge is valuable and irreplaceable. Life is valuable and worth living. I'm looking forward to the next stages of life. I'm excited to get married in September, but I have to remember to enjoy now: the monthly or bi-monthly travel, the cake tastings, the excitement of saying hello and the pain of saying good-bye. Life is happening and if we (I) just look to tomorrow how will I celebrate the blessings of today?

I watched one of my favorite shows today -- Nashville. The last song they played was called "A Life That's Good". The first bit of it goes like this "Sitting here tonight, by the fire light, it reminds me I already have more than I should. I don't need fame, no one to know my name. At the end of the day, Lord I pray "I have a life that's good." I think it is a good reminder that we (you and me) have a life that's good and we should praise the Lord for that life every morning and every night. We only have this one and we should live it with love in our hearts and trust in all situations that God knows what He is doing and that His plans for us are always better than any we could plan for ourselves.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Conditions of the Heart

The past few months have introduced a completely new world view that I have never had before. It has taken something I have known my whole life to be a comfort and twisted it into this unknown, uncomfortable thing. I've had something I have been proud of my whole life and learned that what I've known and lived as truth is seen by many as an untruth and that scares me. It doesn't scare me because I think they are right it scares me because they have been given incorrect information. Misconceptions and misunderstandings do more damage than good. Sometimes I feel like I've come across a world of people who are taught one thing and without any discernment or even a little research they believe it. It is important, 100% or more, to understand and discern truth. It is important to know that truth especially pertaining to God is objective not subjective. In other words, my truth cannot be your truth and they are both true. Christianity is not and will never be a "pick and choose" religion. The things Christ taught are difficult. We can't choose what we like or don't like. We need to understand and live according to all the difficult teachings. It is a religion of sacrifice. The focal point of the Gospel is of sacrifice and resurrection to new life.

I believe that a lot of Christianity today has become subjective. Different interpretations of scripture ultimately create different "truths" among one denomination to the next. We all love the same Jesus and that is so wonderful. It is beyond wonderful. However, with continued division among the denominations, how can we ever be united? Christ doesn't want His Bride, the Church, to be separated. He wants unity and when we discredit other denominations of Christianity based on misunderstanding and a lack of research then we divide more than we unite. I've talked to someone who has called what they believe a teaching of the Catholic church to be as "blasphemous". His statement was completely false and he didn't understand Catholic doctrine at all, but he 100% believed what he was saying. If we are going to take the time to try to understand God, then we need to make sure we know what we are talking. If you evangelize, evangelize based on truth. There should never be a need, ever, to attack another denomination of Christianity. If you are speaking truth then what you are speaking should be solid and supported enough by the evidence you have in front of you whether that is Scripture or historical evidence there should be no need to discredit someone else if your arguments are based on truth. If Scripture is enough, use Scripture. Base your teachings on that, not what you believe someone else to be wrong about.

I know that probably wasn't very loving but it just makes me angry and sad. We were created with a mind. We should know how to use it. We should get our facts first. I will be the first (maybe second, or last) to admit I don't know everything. How could I possibly? God is infinite, and omnipotent, and omniscient. God is a mystery and I will never understand everything. I do know, though, that I will never base what I believe to be true off a source other than the one who teaches it. If I want to know about Catholicism, then I will go to a legitimate Catholic source like the Catechism of the Catholic Church to make sure I know that doctrine. If I want to know about the Orthodox church, I will go directly to that source. If I want to know about Protestantism, again I will go directly to a Protestant source. Who knows a teaching better than the source? I guarantee you a Catholic priest knows Catholic teachings better than a Protestant pastor just like I can guarantee you that Protestant pastor knows more about Protestant teachings than a Catholic priest. Seek truth. Seek it correctly. Please. And every single day, show love, caring, understanding, patience, and prayer to all your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

And He will raise you up...

Happy Easter!! Also, good morning. It is early and almost bright here in Southern Florida on this beautiful Easter morning! We will be going to Mass in one hour in order to praise the Lord on this holy day :) Lucky me! Easter Sunday mass is always more crowded than the rest of the year. I think it is both a glorious thing but also a little bit sad too. It is beyond wonderful that so many people get to hear the Gospel message in a morning but if everyone realized the extreme importance and meaning of Easter in Christianity than they would be there every single week singing and praising the Lord. Easter is wonderful! Jesus died for us and He overcame death so we could live with Him for eternity.

Ever since I started studying my faith over the past year ("my journey") I've come to learn so many awesome things about Jesus and scripture that I just should have known. For a long time I would be sitting in Mass counting down the minutes until Mass was over. Going to church on Sunday seemed to be more of a chore than anything. Unfortunately and sadly through my fallen state, my sinful state, and my selfish state I would have rather done something "fun" or sleep in. It's really sad, but obviously my heart was not in the right place. However, one of the really awesome things about God is that no matter how far you stray He will continue to tug on your heart strings and call you back to Him. We are His lost sheep and He is not going to stop guiding us in back to Himself. That's what is so great about His love and His mercy. We are sinners and He hates sin. Sin is offending God. It is us choosing something, anything over loving God. Even though we are fallen and we may pull away and we sin, even though we may stray from the path or lose hope in times of trials or tribulations, God is constant and His love is constant. We sin but He doesn't love us any less. That is why Easter is so important because the past few days, the past week have magnified how great His love is for us. He knows His plans and He knew humanity needed a savior that's why He sent Jesus. Jesus died as a sacrifice to save us from our sins and He rose from the dead in a defeat over death, over sin.

Not only did He die and rise from the dead but the way He did so fulfilled scripture. In my new found studies, I have learned a lot from people much more versed in theology and the Bible than myself. A few awesome tidbits I have learned about Jesus and Christianity (some I did know, others I had not connected).

1. Jesus is the lamb. At the Last Supper, Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples. The sacrifice at the Passover was a lamb. Lamb's blood was placed over the door of the Jewish families in Egypt so that their house would be passed over and their first born son would not die under God's wrath. Jesus was celebrating this day with His disciples and just as the lamb was the sacrifice that saved them from death (physical), Christ's sacrifice saved us from death (spiritual). He gave His body and His blood so we could live anew.
(I knew this one!)

2. Jesus' sacrifice started in the upper room with the disciples and did not end until He surrendered His soul on the cross. Like I said before, Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples the night before His death. During the Passover celebration, there are four cups that are drunk at the feast. The first cup is the cup of sanctification based on God's promise to deliver them from the burdens of the Egyptians. Next is the cup of deliverance representing God's promise to deliver His people from Egypt's slavery. Third is the cup of redemption which is for God's promise to redeem them with outstretched arms. After the third cup is passed around a hymn is sung.  At the last supper, before the hymn is sung, Jesus proclaims, "I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29) Therefore, not all four cups were drunk at the last supper. In fact, Jesus does not drink the fourth cup until right before He surrenders His soul on the cross when He is given the sponge soaked in wine. The fourth cup of the Passover celebration is the cup or praise or restoration based on God's statement "I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God." 

The way Christ fulfills scripture is profound and incredible. 

Last one! 3. Jesus on the cross says "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." In the words that seem to be ones of despair He is actually reciting scripture! Psalm 22 in fact! I won't spoil it, but go read it! (Matthew 26-27 and Psalm 22)

It is amazing to me how Jesus fulfills what is prophesied in the Old Testament.

He is amazing and Easter is amazing! It is a great day to spread the joy of Christ's death and resurrection. It is a great day to really be an example of His love and mercy (everyday is good to do that).

I started this post in the morning and didn't get to complete it until this evening since we went to Mass and celebrated. The church was decorated beautifully the way that St. Thomas More always is on holidays.

They were giving a free book out at Church which adds to my collection. I'll be starting a library soon :) It will be full of books on Christianity, Paleo, and wedding planning.

I've only gotten four new books in the past two weeks. I was given this book on Church History from a Greek Orthodox perspective this weekend as well.

My current book line up is the two marriage books my fiance and I have to read (The Five Love Languages and The Meaning of Marriage). I am also reading Theology of the Body and The Confessions of St. Augustine right now.

After I finish enriching my mind and soul with those in my truth-seeking, I'm going to be looking at Church history through multiple vantage points. I'll be getting at least three books on church history: one from a Catholic perspective, one from a Protestant perspective, and one from a Greek Orthodox perspective. I have one out of the three thanks to my grandpa and my mother :). I'm excited to start this so I can see how Christianity has evolved and changed from the time of Jesus, through the major splits in Christianity, through the sexual revolution (contraception and abortion are just harmful to society and to our souls), and to today. Since these are the three big splits, it will hopefully really show how and why we all ended up where we are today.

I cannot wait. I also cannot express how blessed I am! I got a wonderful surprise this weekend. On Friday evening I was told I was picking my father up at the airport from a business trip. Once I got to the airport, though, there was the best surprise ever! My fiance flew down for the weekend to celebrate Easter with me and to do wedding planning.

We tasted delicious cakes.

We planned a wedding dinner menu.
We played mini-golf, wits and wagers, and multiple rounds of nickle and dime poker ($2  is pretty low stakes) with the family.
We made homemade, paleo approved! guacamole and deviled eggs (with homemade paleo mayo)

We celebrated Jesus!
It was a wonderful, blessed weekend.
I am so excited for the wedding. There are 139 days left and then there will be no more good-byes.

I really am so thankful for everything the past year has brought. There have been challenges and there will be challenges in the future. It's good. No. It's amazing to know how much joy can be found if we put our trust and our hope in our Savior. If we trust God with our lives and with our hearts He will guide us to what is best for us. He will lead us to Him. He will catch us when we fall. He will give us strength when we are weak. He will give us hope when we are despairing. He will teach us how to love because if we love like Jesus there is no better way to share that joy with a soul than to proclaim Christ through our love and our actions. When we love, we glorify the father.

At mass today, people clapped after the homily message. Almost immediately, Father Vargas gave all the credit to Jesus. He said "for Jesus". He is a true example of humility. I wish I could be more humble. I pray that I become more humble because in the end it really all is for Jesus. It all belongs to God just as we do and our hearts yearn to be home with Him in heaven for eternity. Make your life count for the important things. Love like Christ. Live like Christ.

I pray for his continued help in all my weakness and I ask everyday that He helps me overcome my struggles and my sins. I know I'm weak and need a savior which is why Easter is so important because I know I have a savior. I ask that God bless you on this joyous day and everyday. I pray that you let God change your heart and mine towards Him and His plans. I pray that you seek and find truth and that you understand that you are loved by the best person who knows how to love you. I hope you know that no love can ever compare to God's love for us but it doesn't mean you should strive any less to love others like He does.

I hope you pray for me because I am weak and impatient and sometimes have a shorter fuse than I'd like. I hope you know that whenever I write about sin (specifically contraception and abortion) I want you, reader, whoever you may be to know that I am never judging you. Ever. I sin. Every. Single. Day. All sin is equally shameful in God's eyes. My sin is no better or worse than your sin. I want to write what I believe to be true and I want you to remember that God forgives. This doesn't mean keep sinning. We need Him to change our hearts away from sin. God understands our human nature (remember that guy Jesus? He was fully human and fully divine). Look up always. Open your heart and remember that we all sin differently because we all have different struggles and temptations. None of us are less loved by God and His kingdom is open to us who look to our Savior who died and rose to save us all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things...

It's my sixth day on whole30 and things are getting tough! The sugar cravings are ridiculous. Other than that though I feel so much better. I stopped drinking coffee 2 weeks ago and I have more energy in my day than when I was drinking 1-2 cups a day. Since all I can think about right now is chocolate I thought I'd share some of the wonderful things about my life that I am thankful for!

My wonderful fiance :)

These two goofballs.

My favorite website :) 

Dates and almond butter!

I'm also thankful for my lovely family and my soon to be family!
I'm also grateful that each day gets closer to September 6th and long distance and hard goodbyes will be over for good!

I don't know what I'm going to make for dinner yet hopefully something delicious. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 4. Fighting off the "Sugar Dragon"

I made it through my 4th day of Whole30. The daily e-mail today spoke about self-control over cravings and fighting off your "Sugar Dragon." My Sugar Dragon was well and alive today and roaring at me for sugar, for sweets, for chocolate. I did my best to tame it though. It probably didn't help my cravings with a stressful yet interesting start to the morning. I had to get blood drawn in order to help with the diagnosis of whatever is going on with my cycle. Needless to say, needles are not my friend. I told the nurse drawing my blood that I was going to close my eyes while she took my blood (yes I am a baby). So she starts prepping my arm and talking to me and I feel the needle go in. My eyes are still closed but I start feeling just a little dizzy. The next thing I know I hear the nurse yell "I need help in here." I jerk up and ask"oh, did I fall asleep?" (oops). It didn't occur to me until later that I had actually passed out. Probably the nausea and dizziness I felt after should have clued me in. I also asked her if she had finished taking my blood. Apparently she had just started so after I started feeling better I got wheeled to a bed where I could lay down as they finished the procedure. I was only 30 minutes later to work than normal though which was really nice. 

After the blood work my day got better, and after work I came home to my brand new book. Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. It wasn't written as a book  but was actually a series of encyclical letters he delivered. Saying I am excited is an understatement! Everything I have read about the Catholic Church's teachings on the dignity of human life and the human body have been more profound than almost anything I have read especially in regards to love, marriage, and even celibacy. I'll most likely start this up as soon as I finish this post.

So I'm going to make an awkward transition back into Whole30 (Paleo). I had prepared my Whole30 breakfast and lunch the night before for work. I won't tell you about everything I ate during the day, but the dinner I prepared? Delicious! I am very pleased with how it turned out. I made zucchini "pasta" (thanks to my new julienne peeler) with chicken, mushrooms, olive oil and various spices. I also cut up some Roma Tomatoes. YUM. 
 I love baking now and finding new recipes and foods. It makes me happy and if I'm cooking healthy food, it's keeping me away from those foods that unleash the "Sugar Dragon". I hope that goes away soon because I've been thinking/dreaming about chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter m&ms, and sweet coffee for the last hour. Day 4. Only 26 to go and I'm excited for all the physical and mental changes ahead.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Whole Living

Yesterday began the start of a brand new lifestyle change. I started the whole30 program which is a stricter paleo program that focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods, cutting sugar cravings, and making you healthier overall. I can't tell you all the benefits of paleo personally yet but from what I have researched so far it sounds amazing. Since the "diet" cuts out sugars, grains, and legumes I thought that it would be impossible to follow. No chocolate? No peanut butter? Saying goodbye to my favorite food groups was difficult but even after only 2 days of the whole30 I am already amazed at how much better I feel and proud of myself for learning and preparing new recipes. They are delicious recipes if I do say so myself. Cauliflower "rice", mashed garlic cauliflower, carrot "fries", guacamole deviled eggs, and dates stuffed with almond butter are just a few of my new diet staples. I do feel like the only way I can eat dates though is if I am concurrently watching Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark ... or at least thinking about it. I'll also have to make sure I have a monkey taste the dates before I eat them next time. Just in case. 

Eating paleo and learning the Creighton Method have taught me a lot about myself and even more about how we take care of ourselves not only physically but also spiritually. I've been looking at food labels a lot more lately and not for calories anymore (which I looked at exclusively for years) but for ingredients. If I can't tell you what it is without Google's help, I don't buy it.  Are some of these "health foods" we are being sold even food? Why was I ever putting that in my body? I've asked that question about a lot of stuff lately. Food. Contraception. Why?

God designed us as humans in His image and likeness and everything God created is good. He created everything for a purpose and in everything if it is used the way God intended, then that is what is best for us as human beings. We need to take care of ourselves because we are body and spirit. They affect each other and one is not exclusive of the other. We need to take care of our health and eat right so our bodies work correctly. If we eat whole foods we are eating them in the best possible state which is so much better for us then processed, factory "food." I started eating Paleo to find and resolve underlying issues with my cycle (which were found through charting with the Creighton Method). We are important and taking care of ourselves is important because we are created in God's image and likeness. He gives us everything we need to point us towards Him and He provides us with what we need. 

Again, I'll bring up how I feel about contraception. It is 150% wrong. I'll go so far as to say I believe it is a sin. You can't spin it or twist it any other way. Until 1930 all Christian communities held a unified stance against contraception. It wasn't until an Anglican Church in 1930 said it was "okay" that other Christian communities followed suit and made it a personal choice. Most said it was okay except the Catholic Church. You can read that phenomenal stance on the dignity of human life in Humanae Vitae.

In the 21st century, the Catholic Church in her teachings still holds and teaches a strong view against contraception and that its use is a sin. However, the Catholic Church is not the only one who has spoken out against contraception. Strong Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther abhorred the use of contraception. Luther's words against it were so strong as to say "How great, therefore, the wickedness of [fallen] human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! Indeed, some spouses who marry and live together…have various ends in mind, but rarely children." 

So what changed from the time of Jesus? From the 1500s until the 1930s? until now? Society. What we as humans deem acceptable has changed (it doesn't mean we are always right!). God hasn't changed. God is constant. He is not going to change His commands for the convenience of society. Despite what the media tells us, what the latest "feminist" tells us, or what special pill our government pushes on us we are not broken. Fallen, yes, but broken, no. Fertility is a sign of health and pregnancy should be a joyous thing (please within marriage... again all of this is in context of God's creation). It's not a "disease" that needs to be controlled by a pill or a piece of a rubber. 

Fertility is good and our bodies were designed as woman so that we are not fertile 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are actually infertile during each cycle more than we are fertile. If we learn how our bodies work and the signs of fertility then we can work within the context of God's design to either achieve or avoid pregnancy based on our lives situations. Adding contraception to any marital relation takes away from the fullness of self-giving (you are holding back your fertility) and it goes against God's first command to be fruitful and multiply. Now I'm not saying multiply, multiply, multiply. Just think and discern. If God wanted us to pop out a baby every 9 months then we would be fertile all the time but we are not. We need to regard new life as a gift not a disease and we need to understand our fertility not destroy it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paleo...and NaPro

List 1: Sugar. Sweets. Peanut Butter. Bread. Pasta. Bagels. Cereal. 

List 2: Health. Future. Self control. Knowledge. 

The past week has added more changes  to my life in this ever changing, wonderfully blessed year. A week ago I sat in my new NaProTechnology Doctor's office and learned I would need to give up everything on list 1. What  I didn't realize until moments ago was all that I would be gaining in the process (check out list 2!).

I started charting with the Creighton Model two months ago. The Creighton Model is a system that a couple can use to track the times of fertility and infertility during a woman's cycle (as well as understand anything abnormal or unusual going on). In my first few months of tracking I learned there was a lot going on in my cycle that wasn't normal...which is why I ended up in a NaProTechnology Doctor's office early last Tuesday. 

As I sat down with the Doctor, showed him my chart, and shared my medical history he told me that he works towards a root cause analysis. The first steps towards that analysis? Changing my diet (and getting bloodwork :/ on day P + 7 of my cycle). 

So I have begun the process of saying goodbye to anything processed, sweetened, or dairy as I transition into a paleo diet. It's been difficult so far but I realize now that my struggles (changing my diet overnight) will ultimately be rewarding (see list 2 again:) ). Anything worth doing is going to take time and patience. Paleo, charting, relationships, and love. 

I made paleo "bread" today. It didn't have much flavor and the ingredients were expensive. I had to make it from fresh ingredients  in my cupboards and refrigerator. I couldn't just buy the loaf off the shelf that would have been quicker and easier. A quick fix and instant gratification can never be rewarding in the long run. It is our continued pursuance of something better, something worth putting effort in for that is truly rewarding. Whether it is our health, our work, or our relationships, we are fulfilled by what we put into it. 

Everyday we must bear the crosses we have been given (a paleo diet isn't the cross, it's more of a blessing) because we are given our struggles for a reason. Everything we encounter in our lives is there for a reason. It is there to help us grow, to help 
us learn, and to help us trust in all the wonderful, crazy, scary, confusing, and joyful plans God has for our lives.  I'm thankful for the lessons of yesterday, the blessings of today, and the journey ahead.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What is Love?

Love. What is it? Is it a 120 minute Hollywood film where the tall, dark, handsome male lead realizes he is in love with his quirky best friend? Is it antagonizing heartbreak and pining (and whining) that is the epitome of every Taylor Swift song? Is it infatuation? Is it instant gratification? Is it a desire for possessions and things that will one day make us "happy" and "rich"? To all the above. I say no. Love is what we can give to others. Love does not seek a personal benefit. "If only he loved me", "if only I had that", "why can't he see what is right in front of him?" are examples of self seeking desires and do not constitute love.

Love, true love, is four things. Love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Love is Christ dying on the cross to save us from sins. He gave himself freely out of His love for us and His mercy so we could one day be united with Him. He gave himself totally to us. He didn't say "here is part of my body but not all of it." He is faithful because He keeps His promise to us and His love is fruitful because it brings about new life in Him daily.

We need to be this example of love every single day because no matter how undeserving we may believe someone to be of our love and no matter how much pain someone has caused us we are so much more undeserving of Christ's love and His sacrifice and mercy.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Since this is my first post :) I'll give you a little background. I got engaged to the most wonderful man I know about 2 months ago (and we will be married 5 months from now!). A few days before we got engaged (it just happened to be really great, weird timing...God amazes me a lot), I met with a Creighton model fertility care practitioner. It had been weighing on my heart that natural family planning was something I needed to look into for my marriage with my future husband and other than saying "yes" on January 31, 2014, it was the best decision I could have made.

It all began with a CD and the radio. I was listening to one of my Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs or AM 920 and someone had mentioned Humanae Vitae. It was something I had never heard of but something that should have definitely been on my radar. I have always been and I will always be very very strongly against abortion. But contraception? I never saw the issue. That was until I started doing my research. Humane Vitae is an encyclical letter by Pope Paul VI. In it he talks about the Catholic church's stance on contraception and  things that he predicted in this letter are occurring in today's society hugely due to contraception. Contraception affects how we as a society view the dignity of human life. It changes marital relations and family life. It reduces something that God created as holy to something that is a counterfeit.

I could go on much longer about contraception and I will, probably, at some point. For now though, two thoughts. One scientific. One religious. Contraception of all sorts works to reverse fertility. Fertility is not a disease that needs to be cured. It is something that shows us we are healthy. The pill in particular can often work as an abortifacient. It thins the lining of the uterine wall and once conception occurs it can prevent that fertilized egg (the baby) to not be able to attach. It can also increase a women's risk of breast cancer due to unnaturally changing the hormones in our bodies (if you didn't know, the pill works to "trick" your body into thinking it is pregnant to attempt to stop ovulation). Why are we, as women, allowing this into our bodies when we try so hard in so many other ways to keep our bodies healthy? If we are going to care for our bodies through good diet and exercise we also need to research and understand what else we are putting into our bodies. We need to be careful to not always trust society's "quick fix" especially in this instant gratification culture we live in.

I read or heard on the radio something interesting. We all know that the 100 percent foolproof way to avoid pregnancy is chastity or abstinence. Before the pill was widely distributed, we as humans had a foolproof way to avoid pregnancy. Once the pill came into play, the information distributors fed society was that this is what they needed to avoid pregnancy. No. We have always had what we have needed to avoid pregnancy...self control. Contraception allows society to pursue personal gratification and these distributors feed us information to sell their product. Do they honestly care about women's health or the dignity of human life? I doubt it. Otherwise we would be educated in our health classes as young women knowing exactly what different methods of hormonal contraception do to a woman's body. We are being sold a product that I honestly do not believe promotes love, human dignity, families, and every human being's right to life.

Second. God created sex for life and love (within marriage!). If you take away part of that "nature" of what sex was created for, it is no longer that thing, but it is something else altogether.

If you want to know more I'll probably blog about the Creighton Method (and NaPro Technology!) I have been learning. Don't worry everything Creighton is positive!

For more resources I highly recommend:
Humane Vitae
Theology of the Body for beginners by Christopher West
Contraception: Cracking the Myths by Janet Smith (mp3 or cd)
From Love, For Love, By Love by Fr. Michael Schmitz (mp3 or cd)
Sexual Freedom by Christopher West (mp3 or cd)