The Idol of the Narrative

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In Strange Gods, Elizabeth Scalia went into detail on how we create idols out of our own egos and ideas. In Little Sins Mean a Lot, there’s a whole chapter about the dangers of clinging onto unhealthy narratives. As a writer, I pay a lot of attention to the narrative. Every person has their own version of what they think their lives were like and their perspectives of the people around them.

For the longest time, I had this narrative in my head that I spent a lot of my life alone. In spite of the fact that I had a good family and went to a good school, the story of my life always focused on the times that I was bullied or neglected. I also have a tendency of using this tactic of focusing too much on the negative when it comes to remembering my exes. I think it stems from some kind of self-preservation, a tactic to keep myself safe and remind myself to avoid getting into those situations again.

However, during my recent vacation to New Jersey, I met with a couple of old friends. We reminisced about my childhood, as childhood friends always do. Then one of my friends told me something I never knew. Way back when I was in kindergarten, the seventh and eighth graders were making ants on a log (peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins) when one of them realized that having the peanut butter around could trigger my allergy. Even though I wasn’t even in the same building as them and wasn’t as sensitive to peanuts as other kids, they decided to throw out their snacks, peanut butter and all, just to make sure that I would be safe.

I also learned that my childhood best friend was very protective of me. I knew that she and I were best friends, in spite of us being complete opposites, but I never knew that she protected me as if I was part of her family. Of course, she was the youngest of four sisters so it made sense that she treated me like the little sister she never had. I was loved and cherished even by people I never really knew. The crappy stuff I went through in middle school wasn’t all bad because I still had people to talk to. I was never as alone as I always believed I was.

The narratives we tell others reveal a lot to them about how we see ourselves and how we see other people. It’s basically why I’m trying to remember the good times I had with my exes as well as the bad. While I still joke that my love life is a veritable “comedy of errors,” I don’t want to condemn the people I connected with and paint them as the worst of humanity. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ever want them back in my lives. It’s just part of me learning how to forgive them. I always like to believe that people are inherently good, but at the same time, they also have damage that they haven’t completely healed from. Some people hide this damage behind a mask while others cling to their broken narratives and play the victim. None of these are healthy coping mechanisms.

If we want to start becoming the best versions of ourselves, we need to rewrite the narrative we have for our lives. We are never as alone as we think we are. We are loved so much by people we may not even know. The people in our lives have their own narratives as well. If you have hurt someone or received damage from somebody, I’m not asking you to contact them and try to work things out. Instead, go into prayer with God and ask Him to heal the wounds in your heart. There’s a wonderful prayer Leah Libresco shared with me that honors the Five Wounds of Christ that you can pray here. If you have some emotional ties with someone, I highly recommend praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

As the musical Hamilton often repeats, we have no control who lives, who dies, and who tells our story. We have control over our actions and the stories we write for ourselves, but we are all in need of guidance as to how we can act and perceive things in a good way. Today, I ask you to let God write your story. Hand the narrative over to Him and see what he can do.

Cirque D'Etoiles: A Spoken Word Poem

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All things tend towards chaos

Life is the tightrope we walk to avoid it

Suddenly

Unexpectedly

Death arrives like the ricochet from a cannon’s blast

Throwing everything off-kilter

Down into the black without a safety net

Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints

Every life shines and fades as quickly as a meteorite in the sky

Millions of meteorites fall everyday,

yet supernovas are the ones that shake us up

We can understand the death of an old, worn out star

Yet when other stars die out, especially in quick succession,

it throws the universe off-balance

more than the deaths of little comets and meteorites

Is it just the succession?

The confusing juxtaposition between the end of one life

and the continuation of another?

The stars are supposed to be constant

yet they fall and they fade and they die

and nobody understands,

nobody explains why.

Maybe it’s not the fault in our stars

that throws us off our tightropes

Maybe each supernova

reminds us that we’re each a little infinity

and some infinities are bigger than other infinities

Stars fall and fade and die

but each supernova gives birth to something new

With each piece from the fallen stars,

we create an order out of the chaos

embracing the infinite

No safety net is needed

because our hearts are our wings

Love, the fuel that propels us to fly

You can take the stars out of the sky

but you can never take the sky itself

With love, we send a kiss out to the stars

Creating tiny pieces of light that shine in the dark

 

Prosperity vs. Providence: What You Want Isn't Always What You Need

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I’ve mentioned before that for me, when it comes to relying on God, I like to think more along the lines of believing in providence rather than prosperity.

The word “providence” comes from the word “provide,” which means “to make available” or “to supply.” The word always takes into account what is to come. Prosperity means “successful, flourishing, thriving.” Not that there’s anything wrong with having a life that’s successful, flourishing, or thriving, but at the same time, meditate on this Bible verse: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

We live in a society that doesn’t understand the difference between “Need” and “Want.” Blimey Cow did a video on this:

Let’s apply the strategy from Messy Mondays to the things that we want.

Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t have the perfect house or a nice car or a million dollars? Pope Francis lives in what is basically an apartment building and only rides in the Popemobile once a week. Not to mention that since he’s a Jesuit, he’s taken a vow of poverty. Would we really be in serious trouble if we missed an episode, or heck a whole season, of the latest hit TV show? I get by pretty fine avoiding How to Get Away With Murder and Game of Thrones. Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t get the job we wanted? Well, that’s a bit of a gray area, but honestly, it’s not like getting the corner office is the end-all be-all. It’s good to have a job, but not at the expense of everything else.

We will always want things. It’s part of being human. We may think that we “need” things, but in reality, we may just be wanting something that’s not the best for us right now. Like, hypothetically speaking, say that there’s a girl who always whines about needing a boyfriend. It’s not exactly the end of the world if she doesn’t have one. The trick to figuring out what we need versus what we want involves learning what we can reasonably live without. You may want to go on a trip, but you can’t exactly afford to do so because you need that money for the rent or to pay off the mountain of student loans you have hanging over your head. Although I didn’t exactly make all 30 days of Leah Darrow’s “The Closet Challenge,” the task made me realize what clothes I don’t really use or wear. In other words, it made me learn what kind of clothes I needed as opposed to clothes I wanted but may not wear all the time. It also kept me from asking for new clothes, even though I had the opportunity to get new clothes if I so wanted to.

When we look at our lives and plan for the future, it’s better to have realistic expectations of getting the things that we need. The Gospel of Happiness says that it’s better to have realistic expectations in the long run. The good news is that while we can plan for the future, we can bring God into it by asking Him to provide for what we need. “Give us this day our daily bread,” as it says in the Our Father.

And sometimes, the Lord can give us what we want. I didn’t exactly need to go to Comicpalooza, but I still did and ended up having the time of my life. The way to have realistic expectations about what we want, though, is understanding and accepting that we don’t always get what we want all the time. We will always have what we need. Just that we can’t always get what we want.

Reflections on the End of Summer

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Even though the week has just begun, summer feels like it has finally ended for me. I’ve mentioned before that the last few months have been a roller coaster. I went from travelling to Florida to the heights of Mount Everest (in Vacation Bible School), made some new friends at Cafe Catholica, and went to a baseball game for the first time! My brother came back from studying abroad, we moved him into a new apartment, and now I’m finally settling down, getting off the ride and wondering “What the heck do I do now?”

I had a couple of “false starts” throughout this summer, things I thought would lead to more but were really just temporary. But I learned a lot from the things I experienced. Through watching my friends get married or choosing religious life, I became more resolved in finding my own vocation. Through making new friends and going to new places, I learned about life outside of the internet. I learned how to sing in harmony with a choir and how to write a cover letter.

I learned that I was a person who had a lot of resilience, but still broke down every now and then. The times that I break are just as important as the good times because I gained a lot of strength from it. I learned that when I turn to God, he turns things around and gets me out of the woods and through the storm. I also learned how to deal with disappointments and that you don’t always have to write people off just because you have communication issues with them. If you can still be friends with someone in spite of some misunderstandings, it’s definitely a lot better than hating them.

One thing I noticed this summer was that everyone was kind of undergoing a kind of identity crisis. I wrote an article about the limit of labels for Radiance and Grace Magazine. I feel like I’ve changed in how I see myself as well. It’s still hard for me to adjust to change, but it’s getting easier nowadays. I’m still looking for opportunities to try new things, especially stuff involving young adults and writing. Thankfully, there are some events going on that have to do with both!

I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming fall season. I may not be a student anymore, but I can still learn new things every day. I can spend this time reading new books and honing my craft. I’m probably gonna get ready for Halloween way too early and who knows what will happen in October, my favorite month of the year?

I hope that the next few months will be good. What I know for sure is that God will be with me throughout all of it.

Can Young Adults Really Believe In Marriage?

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Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us twogethow today.

 

When you’re in your 20s and early 30s, the world of “married life” looks like an amusement park. The newlyweds are on a merry-go-round while other couples are on a roller-coaster and many couples end up leaving the park altogether, choosing to split up after over a decade or so of marriage. It’s one thing to hear about celebrities divorcing, but some people grow into adulthood and watch as friends who married in college decide to call things off. What’s even worse are the couples who marry within the Church, doing the Sacrament of marriage a great dishonor.

So with all the statistics on marriage and the option of cohabitation and “free love” available, how can young adults believe in marriage, let alone start discerning it?

It starts by knowing what marriage is and what it isn’t.

Marriage IS NOT…

1) A Job.

Like the vocations of priesthood and religious life, marriage isn’t a 9-to-5 thing that you can clock out of. It’s a lifestyle, one that demands your all. Being married takes work, but it’s not all work and no play.

2) A Fairy Tale.

Or a Nicholas Sparks movie. Or a romantic comedy. Or a Hallmark movie. Marriage isn’t going to be a story where people will fall in love at first sight or start bickering constantly and end up falling in love with each other. The story of every marriage is different. There will be boring parts. There will be exciting parts. There will be parts that don’t really fit into any kind of movie or “romantic” story. The point is, though, that marriage is the story belonging to the husband and wife and God and as Fulton Sheen said, it will take the 3 of them to make the story a good one.

3) Just About Being Each Other’s Best Friends.

There’s a song by Calvin Harris called “How Deep is Your Love” (no relation to the BeeGees song of the same name) that has a lyric that goes “So tell me how deep is your love, can we go deeper?”

Married love goes way deeper than mere friendship. According to the Theology of the Body, marriage is becoming one flesh with your spouse, giving yourself body and soul to someone you trust with your life and your heart. It’s not always about treating your spouse the same way you would treat a friend. Many of my married friends don’t have everything in common with their spouses. (Example: My friend’s husband watches Game of Thrones while she prefers musicals.)  The friendship between spouses is just as special as “BFF level” friendship. It’s just different.

4) Going to Complete You

Like many young adults, I wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of just having somebody. My anthem throughout college was Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” And I’m very certain many young adults are still singing that as their anthem. Or “On My Own” from Les Miserables. Or “All By Myself.” But here’s the thing, people. Your spouse is a human being. The reason Fulton Sheen says “It Takes Three To Get Married” is because God needs to be a part of marriage in order for it to be complete. The spouses both pursue Heaven together with their eyes towards God and not just on each other.

So don’t seek out a relationship just because you want to have somebody or you want to have the experience of going out. A friend of mine recently started dating again for the first time in years and while she’s having a great time going to new places, she genuinely likes the guy that she’s going out with. She’s not using him as a meal ticket or a placeholder until a better guy comes along.

5) About What We Want

Marriage isn’t what we get out of it. It’s about serving each other. I’m pretty sure all of us, married and unmarried, have rolled our eyes whenever we heard this passage from Ephesians.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

But look harder. It’s not asking for a woman to be doormats and for husbands to be dominant. It’s a passage about mutual surrender. Christ gave his life to His Bride, the Church, and the Church ideally does the same for Him. This mutual surrender is a part of being married. “You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.” (That’s from Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.)

So what is marriage then?

1) It’s more than a wedding.

I have a joke that I’m saving for whenever somebody says that Catholic weddings are too long. “Honey, Catholic weddings aren’t too long. It’s just that every other wedding is too short.” I get the appeal behind having the perfect wedding. But life goes on long after two people say “I do.” Marriage is a path to sainthood, just like every other vocation. Which means that there will be times when you find yourself screaming “This is the last time I’m asking you this, put my name at the top of your list.” There will be times you’ll want out. There will be times when the two of you will fall apart. Fight for each other. Ask God to help you fall back together. Whatever problems you have, you’ll come out stronger and more in love than ever. That beats a million dollar wedding anyday.

2) It’s a matter of fidelity.

We don’t just choose our spouse when we enter into a relationship and eventually say “I do.” No matter how hard we may crush on celebrities and athletes, the fantasies have to be put aside for the reality that is our spouse. A happily married actress (who’s been with her man for over a decade and married for four years with him) said “The grass is greener where you water it.” Cultivate your marriage and let it grow. When God enters into the marriage, faithfulness to Him can increase faithfulness between spouses. (Results may vary, of course.)

We choose our spouse every day when we choose to stay with them over the cute hired hand or a fictional character or the young intern in the cubicle next to us. We choose them when we stop thinking about “What if I was married to so and so?” We choose them when we let ourselves be vulnerable to them and let our armor down.

3) It’s just as much about children as it is about each other.

Ideally, marriage is about creating a family. Some couples aren’t blessed with children, but can be called to adopt or become foster parents. Then, of course, there’s the old Catholic joke about having 7 kids and homeschooling them until college. (Rebecca Frech, I am looking right at you, sister!)  But it’s not just about procreation. Mark Hart and his wife still go out on dates to renew their love for each other. There needs to be just as much investment in each other even after kids come into the picture.

4) It’s going to be different from every other relationship.

I’ve said before that real love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. It’s not going to be the teenage love where we feel like our significant other is all we know and we would die without them. Love isn’t obsession or something where we lose ourselves in the other person. We mutually surrender to our spouse and make ourselves vulnerable, but that love should not come at the cost of losing our souls. Real love is something that leads our souls closer to heaven.

5) Marriage is beautiful.

We all stand in awe at the sight of a bride in white. There are many words to describe her, but beautiful is the one that comes to mind the most. Couples out together, parents with kids, families with babies in church? All of these things are beautiful as well. And it’s through the beauty of marriage that we can evangelize to the world.

Fr. Robert Barron said that it’s hard to resist the power of a beautiful thing. When we are drawn to a beautiful thing, we want to be a part of it. It starts changes us. The more we understand the beautiful thing, the more we understand what makes it beautiful (the goodness of it) and eventually, we find the truth.

Funny how that sounds so much like falling in love. Marriage starts with finding a beautiful person. The more we get to know a person, the more we understand what makes them beautiful and eventually we find the truth that we want to spend the rest of our lives with this person.

Through the beauty of marriage, people will wonder “how do they do it?” Through understanding marriage, people will realize what makes marriage good. And eventually, the truth comes out: real marriage is about the other person and about God.

There are so many books and resources that can give you advice on what being married is like. I found this wonderful list from Word on Fire while working on this article. I also recommend studying the Theology of the Body and reading The Jeweler’s Shop because that play captures love in all its stages and kinds. If you want to find examples of good marriages, there are saints out there who were married, like St. Gianna, or the soon to be canonized Louis and Zelie Martin.

But even with all this knowledge, we ultimately won’t know what marriage is like until we are married. Deciding to get married is the biggest leap of faith, the same kind of leap of faith it takes to enter into any vocation. Because it takes a leap of faith to fall in love with anything in the first place. That leap of faith, though? It’s a very beautiful thing.

So can young adults really believe in marriage? Yes.

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

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One quote from Buffy the Vampire the Slayer that resonates with me comes from the Season 5 finale “The Gift”:

The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.

Season 6 of Buffy was themed around the idea of life becoming the Big Bad. As angsty and heartwrenching as it sounds, Whedon got it right. Going to extremes feels easy because of the high-risk, high-reward gamble. We all jump at the chance to do the extraordinary. We live for the celebration of special occasions.

But ordinary life? Ordinary Time? The daily grind, especially when faced with an uncertain future? That’s hard. It’s hard to just live from day to day if your life is surrounded by uncertainty or sadness or anxiety. There are times in life where it feels like you’re driving down a highway at night with just the headlights showing the next 200 feet. Or you’re wandering around the woods and the trees look like monsters. Or you feel like there’s nothing but fog and rain and no sunlight at all. How do you find your way out?

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

There will be times in your life that God calls us to completely surrender yourselves, your lives, and everything in it to Him. Your faith will be tested. It’s during these times that you need to fully rely on God. It’s not an easy thing to do. I know it’s not for me, given that there are a million things in this life that I don’t know for sure.

What I know for sure is that if I didn’t have my faith in God and if I didn’t trust him,  I would just be an empty shell of the woman I am now. In spite of the darkness, the woods, and the fog, God is always with us, leading us out. But sometimes, as I’ve been learning in Vacation Bible School, he just wants us to hold on. As in hold on to Him. Rely on Him. Fully surrender ourselves to Him.

There are so many songs that talk about walking by faith, but one of my favorites is Audrey Assad’s “Lead Kindly Light,” based on a prayer by John Henry Newman.

I pray that no matter what’s going on in your life today, you are taking that first step in faith, trusting in God, and handing everything over to Him.

Nothing Safe is Worth the Drive

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I used to be afraid of thunderstorms. While I’ve gotten over it for the most part, I still hate it when I’m in a car as sheets of pouring rain fall around and whenever lightning flashes every other second, especially if it comes in the form of chain lightning. But given that I live in Houston, enduring bad weather inside a car is pretty much inevitable.

I don’t know if ti’s just a Catholic thing, but I consider my life to be a bit of an oxymoron. I like having routines, but I get bored easily. I love books, but I’m picky about what I read. I’m a total chatterbox online, but I suck at making small talk in real life. Most of all, my favorite quote starts with “To love at all is to be vulnerable…” but I hate taking risks, especially in matters of the heart.

But let’s be honest. Risks are the only way that we ever learn anything. I’m not talking about jumping-off-a-cliff or experimenting with drugs or people kind of risks. I’m talking about pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. To put things in theatre terms, we’re never gonna get the lead role if we don’t go out and audition for the musical first. I could’ve been in a musical or studied abroad in college, but I never took those chances and I seriously regret that.

On the other hand, I feel like I took a risk in going to a convention of thirty thousand something people a year ago just to meet my favorite actor and pretend to be a vampire slayer and it’s still one of my favorite memories. I also take a risk every time I volunteer at my young adult retreats because, as stated before, I open myself to being put through the emotional wringer. I also have to deal with every retreat being different from the last one and it takes me a while to think on my feet. In spite of that, I still learn a lot from each experience.

My favorite TV shows and movies are always action-packed or have characters who are put through the emotional wringer and come out a little hardened, but a whole lot wiser. It might’ve been safer for Bilbo Baggins to stay in the Shire instead of going off on an adventure, but he wouldn’t have come back with a story to tell. It might’ve been safer for Rick to stick his neck out for no one, but he couldn’t have saved the woman he loves if he did. It might’ve been safe for the apostles to stay in hiding after Jesus’s death, but the Holy Spirit compelled them to do otherwise.

One song I associate with taking risks is Taylor Swift’s “Treacherous.” It was the song I listened to while I was waiting in line for James Marsters at Comicpalooza. At first, I imagined the song with my favorite characters. But then, he walked in just as the song got to the bridge, which includes the line “Nothing safe is worth the drive.” That line has been one of my favorite Taylor Swift lyrics for quite some time because they remind me, along with all of my other favorite quotes, that taking a risk is more often than not a good thing.

What pushes you out of your comfort zone? What are you most afraid of? I’m not asking anyone to go bungee jumping or spend a wild night out in Vegas, but I wanna ask you what kind of risks you think you’ll be willing to take.

Faith and Trust vs Doubt and Discouragement

One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis is “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.” I keep going back to that quote whenever I face a setback.

I know you guys are probably gonna laugh at the idea of a twentysomething having a quarter-life crisis, but the fact is that it happens. I apply for jobs and don’t hear back or I get the interview, but not the job itself. I fall for guys who never give me a chance. I have a million writing ideas but get writer’s block as soon as I see the blank page of a word processor.

I know that God has a better plan for me. It would be nice to know what that plan was, though. I mean, what could be better than having a full-time job, having a car, driving where I want to go, and having a normal relationship? I’m not exactly sure if it’s in God’s plan that I stay at home blogging and only talk to people through the internet.

There are times that God led me to wonderful things that ended up changing my life for the better. The real test is living out that faith and trusting God on a day to day basis. To quote my favorite show “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Believe me when I say that it’s sadly true. It’s hard to live life on a daily basis not knowing what’s gonna happen next, not knowing where life is going to lead you, and faced with a world that is seemingly indifferent. And it’s easy to think that this world is indifferent and to try and create our own meaning or to go the other direction and wallow in angst for the rest of our lives.

But by the grace of God, I am not a nihilist. I think that there is a bigger meaning to life. But I’m not anti-nihilist, either.  The universe is not indifferent to us because God created the universe and he created us. I think that while God has a plan, he always incorporates free will. But there are moral absolutes. I studied way too much Aquinas in my college days and one frustrating thing about reading his works is that I ended up asking more questions. (Which was the point of the Summas, apparently.)

So I don’t have a label for my philosophy, not yet anyway. I’ll always be asking questions and find answers that make me want to know more. And while I don’t like the core value of existentialism, I can say that I can make the most of the time I have now and push forward towards making it better.

Maturity and Making Amends

You ever have one of those days when you wonder “I wonder how my exes are doing now?” And you get that temptation to stalk them on Facebook? Yeah, I’ve been there. I actually contemplated calling one of my exes last night. By the grace of God, I did not go through with it. Instead, I prayed for my exes.

It’s kind of funny how time has a way of changing people. I’m not sure if it’s the fruits of consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary last year or just Divine Providence, but when my friend told me that the ex I wanted to contact wasn’t doing so well, I didn’t laugh at the fact that he seemed to be living a miserable life. Instead I felt sorry for him.

If you ever talked to me a few years ago and told me that one of my exboyfriends is working a minimum wage job and still lived in his parents’ basement, I probably would’ve been howling with laughter.

Maturity is a very weird thing sometimes. It takes all the fun out of laughing at someone else’s expense. But on the other hand, it reminds me that I have better things to think about than how my exes are doing. If I were to actually track down all my exes, I would probably reopen wounds that took a long time to heal or worse, open up opportunities for the more dangerous exes to start manipulating me again.

Sometimes making amends can’t be done in person. Sometimes, it’s too late. Sometimes, for psychological reasons, you can’t be in the same room as that person let alone communicate online. Sometimes, all you can do is pray for those who’ve hurt you. Pray for the ones who broke your heart. Pray the ones who damaged you, no matter how hard that may be. I’m not saying that they will change or that there will ever come a point where you can make amends on a more personal level, but prayer is always the best place to start.

Through prayer, we say to that person “I love you enough to want the best for you, even though you’ve hurt me.” Fr. Robert Barron says “Love means wanting the good for the other as other.”

So here’s my challenge: Think about the person who’s hurt you the most. And pray for them. Write a really angry letter if you must, but offer that anger up to God. Give yourself time. And maybe a crayon. The cliche is often true: time heals all wounds. But it’s not just time that heals the wounds. It’s God. We can hide ourselves in the wounds of Christ and find healing, enough to maybe testify someday. (Listen to Danielle Rose’s “Glorious Wounds” to see what I mean.)

So here’s my question to you: Tell me about a time that you made amends with someone, whether in person or through prayer. What was that experience like for you?

Interview With Arleen Spenceley

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Photo courtesy of Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

What was the inspiration behind
Chastity is For Lovers?
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs.  In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.

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