Friday, December 21, 2012

The Evolution of Friendships

+JMJ+

Lately I've thought a lot about something I'm sure all new brides find themselves musing over now and then: friendships - and how they may change. We've all heard the cliche sayings before about how "once you're married everything changes." Well...it does. And...it's supposed to. However, I think such things are usually said with some sort of negativity or frustration when - if examined more closely - they really don't need to be.

When people discuss how things will change between friends after someone gets married it usually comes from the standpoint of lamenting the fact that you may not ever have another sleepover with your girlfriends, you (for most people, I'd imagine...but certainly not all) probably won't go out to the bars late at night on a regular basis with your friends/without your spouse, and you probably won't be able to drop everything to go spend a weekend with all your girls, etc.

Well, why is that such a terrible thing in the eyes of so many?
If this is the type of friendship every single one of your girl friends wants then all of you must be willing to commit to never putting anyone else (besides those of you in your friend group) first at any point in your future lives. You can see how this would start to be problematic if anyone put their career first or wanted to ever get married or have children. I can envision a scenario where a child is lying in bed with a high fever and their mother decides to go visit her college bestie who lives 7 hours away because her friend is having a rough day. Mother of the year, right there....

If I were single and my married friend constantly hung out with me and/or our group of friends without her husband I wouldn't be rejoicing in the fact that nothing had changed once she got married. I would genuinely be concerned that maybe she and her husband don't take their marriage very seriously - or perhaps they prefer the company of their friends to the company of each other. Whatever the reasons may be, from my perspective this would be a huge red flag that something is wrong.

When we get married we take vows  - and in the Catholic church these vows mean we basically agree to play an active role in this person's salvation. If we get married (and we take our faith seriously) it means we love each other and care about the eternal resting place of one another's souls. Even if/when married couples argue and don't "like" each other much, they still know that they have a responsibility to be there for that person, pray for them, and place the importance of their salvation just as high as their own. Truly we are not responsible for anyone's salvation but our own, but nonetheless we do have a responsibility to help our spouses on the path to heaven as much as possible (as long as it will not hinder us on our own paths - but typically when we help others to heaven we are also helping ourselves).

Do I want to help my friends get to heaven, too? Yes, of course!!! If there's anything I can say or do to help them on their journey I certainly hope that God would use me in such a manner. However, at the end of the day, I haven't taken vows to actively play a role in their faith journey. While I absolutely care about what happens to my friends, God does not ask me to lay down my life for every single person I've ever had a friendly encounter with. What an impossible, daunting task that would be for anyone but Himself.

No, God realizes we are human and can only do so much. The rest of it is entirely up to Him. But when He calls us to a marital and familial vocation this must be our priority. These are the relationships in which He clearly depends on us and uses us in intimate, special ways to be of service to one another.

This isn't to say that friendships aren't important. On the contrary, I think maintaining solid friendships outside our marriage is very important - for our mental health as well as our souls. God doesn't call us to hide from the world and only tend to the people immediately in front of us - although He does desire us to care for these people within our families first before going out and doing this for everyone else in the world. As Blessed Mother Teresa once said,

"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home."

When I reflect on all of this it becomes obvious exactly why things should change within our friendships. When we are single we are free to go help whoever needs our help whenever we see it fit. Once we're married, we can still be there to help our friends and lend a supportive ear, but we mustn't do so at the expense of our relationship with our spouse. This can be a tricky balance for some, but I believe that if we are in a good place with our spouses and they too recognize their own need to maintain connections with their friends, they will support us in being there for our friends when we are needed and vice versa. 

So will things change with our friends once we're married? Yes, in some obvious ways (like not regularly having girls' night sleepovers). Is this something that will put an end to our friendships and somehow signify that we will never call or care to keep in touch with one another? Hardly. It simply reveals that our number one priority is and should be the person we took vows to be there for...but beyond that we are fully capable of still loving and supporting our friends just like we did before. 

Spending time on my wedding day with 9 amazing women and one very special flower girl
At the end of the day, really good friends will know and recognize this, too. Solid friends don't ditch one another whenever they begin to follow different life paths (or if one person walks down a particular path before the other). Rather, good friends will be there and remain supportive as things change and they will even be joyful for you. The best friendships are those that can withstand time, changes in geographic location, and will evolve and mature as each of you do...even if you move forward on different paths or at different times. For many, the number of friends that fall into this category will probably dwindle with time...and that is okay, too. We must trust that God will provide for any friends that time and life changes cause us to drift away from. As an unknown author once said, "it is better to have one true friend than all the acquaintances in the world."

I could not agree more...and I look forward to growing in friendship with my husband and all the friends God has generously placed in my life or will introduce me to in the years to come.

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
-Blessed Mother Teresa

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Birthdays

+JMJ+

As of this past weekend I am officially a "quarter century" years old...and Michael and I have officially celebrated our first birthdays as a married couple!

I got off easy this year because his birthday took place during our honeymoon in Belize. We needed space in our luggage to bring home souvenirs which meant he didn't really want me to bring a gift...but I still like to pretend that the cave-tubing, zip-lining, and fancy dinner at our resort that we already had as part of our package that day were something I planned specially for him. When you think of it that way, I did a pretty awesome job! In reality, though, I didn't actually pay for any of it, but it's the thought that counts, right? If we hadn't been in a beautiful foreign country going on thrilling adventures together I would have made sure he had some sweet gift to open, obviously.


When all is said and done, though, birthdays are the most meaningful (as are all holidays, in my opinion) when shared with people we love. Maybe it's because I'm a newlywed, but I tend to think all things are better now that I'm married...because it means I automatically get to share everything with someone I love very much. Birthdays are no exception.

My husband and I made plans to spend my birthday 'day' exploring the quaint town of Frankenmuth, Michigan - home to the world's largest Christmas store as well as many German foods, shops, etc. For my birthday 'night' we planned a dinner date followed by a gathering of friends for some cosmic bowling. Before that, though, Michael surprised me by arriving home from work on Friday carrying beautiful, long-stem roses and a sweet card in which he wrote lovely things for me.


He always complains that he can "never surprise" me, but I happily reminded him that somehow he always seems to manage to do so for my birthday. Because of our plans on Saturday I certainly did not expect any sort of flowers or surprises...but what can I say? He is a keeper.

The only unfortunate thing about my birthday is that I had come down with a nasty cold and felt miserable most of the day - but this did not stop us from having fun! Our excursion to Frankenmuth and everything with friends somehow managed to far exceed my expectations and I had a great time. Maybe it's because I was sick, but even the pizza and pretzel I ate at the food court in Bronner's (seriously the largest Christmas store in the world) was both the cheapest and most delicious meal ever. The sheer immensity and overwhelming options at Bronner's  also managed to distract me from my cold as we explored Christmas decoration after decoration.


They really seemed to have something for everyone. I mean, they had Our Lady of Guadalupe, several Holy Family ornaments, St. Patrick, AND countless pandas. That is my kind of Christmas store. Who else has all of that? 

Thankfully my cold symptoms subsided long enough for me to feel healthy as we bowled and I miraculously bowled a 125 and 105 (unheard of, considering I rank anything over 75 as a really good bowling game for myself). Now that it's been a few days and the worst of my cold is over, I can more fully reflect on how wonderful everything about my birthday was...and I feel beyond blessed.

Every couple is different and each person likes to celebrate their birthday in varying ways, but for me this was perfect. I tend not to ask for much, but the love and happiness I experienced was bountiful. All I can say is that I thank God for my husband, the adventures we have together, and the friends we were able to celebrate with. If our birthdays this year were any indication of how our future birthdays as a married couple will go, I have much to look forward to. Again, maybe it's because I'm a newlywed, but I'm fairly confident that all my future married birthdays will manage to surpass any previous birthday celebrations...even if it's simply because I forever (God-willing) get to share them with my husband. 

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." 
-Abraham Lincoln

Monday, December 17, 2012

Social Media within Our Marriage

+JMJ+

Almost all of you reading this probably have a Facebook account - or at least one other social media website of your choosing...and that is okay and that is common (I am writing this on blogger, after all). Many would even argue that it is "necessary" in today's ever-advancing world of technology. For my husband and me, though, we had a very important conversation during our engagement that reshaped how we approach all things social media-related.

I think any of you that have found something very important in your lives can relate when I say this: when we discover the things that matter most in this world, other things (even ones we may have deemed quite important at some point in time) seem to appear less and less significant. For any of us that are religious, we know that our ultimate goal is to get to heaven someday. If we are married, we include in that goal our vows to help our spouse get to heaven someday, too - to help each other. When we focus on things of such meaning and of utmost importance, we begin to focus less and less on the material or other things that will not help us on our very important path. In many ways it helps us more accurately rearrange priorities and possibly even redistribute our time and efforts accordingly.

When it comes to social media our Holy Father and our Bishops have made it clear that the New Evangelization requires us to take an active role in things of the times...for even though as Christians we are not "of" this world we do have to live "in" it. And the only way to reach others who do not yet know Christ is to engage them, be friends with them, and live an authentic life true to the Gospels.

This is all well and good, but the conversation Michael and I had during our engagement addressed the very question of the role of social media within our lives individually - but more importantly - as a couple. As we delved more deeply into our marriage preparation (and no, I don't mean the pitifully superficial day-long seminar we were required to attend to have a Catholic wedding [some are better than others!] - I mean our real marriage preparation that we completed on our own simply by having important conversations, praying together, and working to grow in faith and love each day), we began to focus more and more on the "big" things in life. When you do this, it highlights things of lesser importance that perhaps you shouldn't waste so much time or energy on. When you do this as a couple, you can together decide how it is you want to live as a couple in this world.

What things were important to us both? What things would only add meaningless stress to our lives? What things would help us live our vows? What things do we need to maintain healthy friendships with others and what things are simply distractions from loving one another?

While previously I had found Facebook, Twitter, and blogging to be useful tools for Evangelization, I started realizing how much aggravation and stress they were bringing into my life. The more and more I cared about reaching out to people I had connections with on these social media tools, the more it seemed to become like this:


...Except I didn't have anyone at the time to talk sense into me and ask me if I was coming to bed or not. I'm certain my husband would do this for me now that we are married and living together, but it's still a dangerous rabbit hole I'd rather avoid entirely. 

Perhaps what helped Michael and me decipher what we needed and didn't need in our lives was the fact that we were - for essentially the entirety of our dating relationship - long distance. When we visited each other on weekends you'd better believe we didn't waste time checking email, blogging, tweeting, or caring to respond to whatever snide comment someone left on a beautiful Catholic image, Bible verse, or meme I had shared on my Facebook page. Instead, we spent our time exploring, going to museums, hiking in parks, playing games, watching movies together, etc. The time we had together was far too precious to be wasted worrying about something mean or disrespectful someone said to me on Facebook. Who cared when we could be out in the world experiencing it together and falling more in love with God and one another?

None of this is to say that Michael and I wound up deciding to crawl into a cave and live our vows perfectly by never being distracted by a single thing ever. That's just nonsensical. We certainly still feel the call to be part of the New Evangelization and actively live "in" the world so our faith and love may be a witness to others (and we can continue to learn from others as well). So if you are someone who loves social media and has the willpower and wisdom to know when to respond and when to walk away without it severely affecting your cortisol levels, God bless you. 

I think in this day and age social media and the internet are very necessarily things we need to assess within our own lives and discuss with our significant other if you are serious about having a healthy relationship. It's different for every couple, but the truth is that if we lived 50 years ago such a conversation wouldn't exist. But we don't live 50 years ago; we live today and now. 

So what did we decide to do? Neither of liked Facebook too much (I used to, but my interest in it had dwindled greatly as I focused more on my relationship with Michael and more and more nasty comments against my religion or political beliefs found their way into my inbox), so we deleted our individual accounts. We didn't want to entirely cut ourselves off from people - and unfortunately too many people in our cohort are dependent on it to maintain any sort of contact with some friends - so we created a single, new, joint account. We combined our names and (after reevaluating who were true friends and which people we would probably never see or talk to again) our friend lists. Our contact info is listed so if people want to reach us, they can. But neither of us want to use the website regularly. I also deleted my Twitter handle and we chose together which websites we would be a part of as we moved forward into marriage. 

We even agreed that we wouldn't post photo albums of our lives on Facebook for the internet world to see, even if we had shortened our list of potential viewers. Call us old-fashioned, but we started to get tired of people practically demanding images of what we were up to. If people really are good family and friends, they'll see photos eventually and/or they'll see us in person and can hear our stories and experiences for themselves. What gives distant acquaintances such a desire to creep into our personal lives? We certainly aren't interested in inviting them in because in "the old days" the only people who would know such intimate information about your whereabouts were people that genuinely cared enough to write, call, or visit you. Not to mention Facebook's ever-changing privacy policies (another easily minimized/deleted source of frustration). All in all, it isn't our cup of tea...but like I said, it's different for every couple. We opted instead to join Flickr and keep our photos private so only people we approved could view them. And guess what? People that really care have asked to see them and go the extra mile to do so. And many people don't care and/or haven't noticed. For us this is simpler and less distracting. 

As we delve deeper into the Advent season we continue to try drowning out the noise of consumerism, catchy holiday tunes, and whatever else that may be distracting us from our Lord as we wait in anticipation for His birth. For Michael and me, social media was one of those things in our lives we realized we could cut back on. Perhaps it isn't an issue for all of you, but if it is, hopefully the conversations Michael and I had can somehow help you discern the role of social media in your own life - whether you are married or single. 

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
-G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

+JMJ+

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and because I love her I wanted to write about her.

Just three days ago we celebrated the feast of St. Juan Diego, the peasant indigenous man Our Lady appeared to in Mexico on December 9, 1531. If you are not familiar with the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady I would sincerely encourage all of you to look into it. It was a few days after she first appeared to him, on December 12, that she performed a beautiful miracle and used him as a messenger so that her words and her request for a church to be built on that site would become known to the world. 

I won't go into detail, but for those of you that know the story we are now left with a gorgeous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe she imprinted on his tilma (a type of common cloak back then). The icon hangs at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It has been scientifically tested and analyzed, but is clearly a miracle and is perfectly in tact nearly 500 years later. Her appearance before Juan Diego and the icon that proved to unbelievers that she exists are rightly attributed with ending the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztecs and the conversion of millions of natives in the next ten years. The significance and depth of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seemingly endless, so I do hope all of you will continue to research this Marian apparition.

Under this Marian title the Virgin Mary has been declared the Patroness of the Americas, Empress/Queen of Latin America, and Protectress of the Unborn. What powerful titles - and given for good reason! So what does this mean for us today? And what does it have to do with my vocation?

Well, first of all, Our Lady of Guadalupe is revered by many because of her complexion. She appeared as a mestizo, which people of varying ethnic groups could relate to. In this way the people of Latin America and all minorities are certainly not forgotten by the Blessed Virgin; she appeared on Mount Tepeyac specifically for them. The hope, peace, and guidance she provided for people during a time of bloody war conquests and sacrificial practices is unquestionable and relevant still. Not only that, but she appeared as the Mother of God - meaning she appeared before Juan Diego with child. We know this because of the black belt tied around her waist, which signified pregnancy to the native people there. Because of this, she is our Protectress of the Unborn and someone surely all mothers and/or prayer warriors for unborn children relate to. 

In other words, I think it would be difficult for anyone not to find at least one thing about Our Lady of Guadalupe that they can relate to or find still relevant in today's world. Nothing about her message or apparition is outdated. Nothing about who she was and what she represents to people is irrelevant, even in today's very secular society.  Mary can always be found leading us to Christ, reflecting His light...even when backs are turned on God. In fact, many Mexicans that no longer attend the Catholic Church still hold a fierce devotion to her and consider themselves "Guadalupanos" even if they neglect or disregard the other aspects of their religion. What a powerful, influential woman who knows what is good for us if we will only listen!

Our Lady of Guadalupe painting at Marytown in Libertyville, IL
(where Michael and I got engaged)

You may be curious as to why I decided to ramble on and on about Our Lady today, but it is because I recognize the role she played in developing my devotion to Mary in general over the past year or so. When I began praying to Mary every day (see my previous post, Fiat) I was living in a poor Mexican American neighborhood in Chicago as I completed a year of volunteer service. Our Lady of Guadalupe was everywhere - on t-shirts, street murals, in the 3 Catholic churches of that neighborhood, and undoubtedly in the hearts of many devoted Guadalupanos.

I began wearing a necklace of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I prayed to her many times for safety, the protection of the unborn, and many other requests. While she is not solely the Marian title I developed a relationship with, she was certainly there every step of the way. Even as I prayed to Mary under various other titles, she is the one that remained constant. Whenever I stood outside on our balcony and looked to my right, there she was - a massive mural painted down the street, reminding me she was there to pray for me. There was even a huge painting of her just inside the Marytown Adoration Chapel where Michael proposed marriage and I said yes. Who knows where I'd be now if she hadn't been there to always point me toward Christ in such an important period of discernment?

I look forward to learning more from Our Lady of Guadalupe and continue to trust in her prayers. Thankfully, my year in that Chicago neighborhood allowed me to leave with quite the collection of Our Lady of Guadalupe votive candles (easily found by the cleaning supplies in the local grocery stores for little more than a dollar). So if anyone has a prayer request for Our Lady, let me know and I'll light a candle for you. 

+Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros+

"Oh, Immaculate Virgin Mother! Hear our prayers and present them before your son Jesus. Grant us peace, justice, and prosperity to your people. We fully give ourselves to you and promise to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and His church. Virgin of Guadalupe, have compassion with us, bless our families and always guide us to your son. Free us from the evils, that we may share our happiness, peace, and glory that can only come from your son Jesus...Amen."
-English version of the prayer on one of my votive candles

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fiat

+JMJ+

Last weekend I was very excited and blessed to attend a retreat hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, also known as the "Ann Arbor Dominicans" or the "Sisters who were on Oprah." As someone who attended a university with Dominican friars at our Newman Center and completed a year of full-time volunteer service with the Dominicans this past July, I was eagerly awaiting my chance to meet these lovely Sisters. Not only that, but I would be surrounded by other Catholic women (potential new friends?!) which is something that has probably been missing in my life since I moved here after the wedding (a couple of months ago now - how time flies!).

I was also very excited for this retreat because it was my first ever blatantly labeled "non-discernment" retreat. The weekend was geared toward post-college age women who were not discerning/had already found their vocation in life. The fact that I now fit into this category still makes me smile. With that said, though, there were a lot of moms...and I mean a lot. So many that this retreat has been nicknamed the "Moms' Retreat" and many of the sessions were facilitated from the perspective of our feminine role(s) as wives and mothers...but mainly just as mothers. Because of this I couldn't necessarily relate to all of the sessions on the retreat, but there was one thing that struck me in a very profound way.

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Chapel

The first hour we were there everyone drew a slip of paper out of an envelope. The pieces of paper contained the Litany of Mary and as Sister Joseph Andrew pointed out so well, whichever one we drew was in fact the one we were meant to draw. She instructed us to reflect on why we got that piece of paper later on in Adoration and told us that we would get the chance to share our understandings/explanations the following day.

As I pulled the thin slip of paper out of the big manila envelope I wondered which "Mary" I would receive. I unfolded it and read the words,

"Mary, at whose Fiat the Son of God came to earth, pray for us."

Wow. How beautiful! Not to mention perfect for the start of the Advent season. 

As I continued to reflect on these words it became very clear to me why I received that slip of paper. I could go on and on about the connections I was able to draw from it, but I'll simply leave it at this: when Mary demonstrated this fiat, this complete surrender and "yes" to God's plan for her life she discovered her vocation (this was something I could relate to!). Not only this, but it brought the Son of God to the earth and forever into our lives. Now, I wouldn't dare compare myself or my vocation to Our Lady or our Lord Jesus Christ...but I think Mary's "yes" is very relate-able and a good example for all of our lives.

It was only when I began to surrender more wholly and began to sacrifice whatever personal desires or goals I may have had for myself that I turned to Mary and more fully saw where God was leading me. As I discerned marriage to my (now) husband I turned my eyes to Mary and, for the first time in my life, finally understood what it was to have a real Marian devotion. She is the ultimate wife and mother and I began praying to her every day. I prayed that if I were supposed to be a wife and mother that she would help me know this in my heart so that when the time came I could give a resounding and wholehearted "yes" - without hesitation - just as she had. It also floored me when I reflected on the fact that my husband and I met for the very first time on the Feast of the Annunciation (when the angel Gabriel appeared to announce God's plan for Mary - and she said "yes") in 2011...so of course you can start to see why this little slip of paper nearly overwhelmed me as I spoke about it with Jesus that night. 

As I grew in relationship with Mary I grew in relationship with my husband...and it was after praying the rosary at an adoration chapel named Marytown that he proposed and I said "yes." In fact, you can read my account of the proposal story at my old blog here

Clearly it would be insanely blasphemous to even suggest that my "yes" to God's will for my life somehow brought the Son of God to the earth...but I think at the end of the day this is how we come to know Christ more intimately in our daily lives. By striving to live by Mary's example of such self-sacrifice and obedience to God we come to follow and know Him in a deeper way. If we can have faith and model this fiat we shall always be exactly where God wants us, doing whatever He wills for us. After all, isn't doing what He wills for us far more satisfying than whatever other things we may believe to be right for ourselves?

We can learn many lessons from our Blessed Mother, but I find her fiat to be one of the most profound, humbling lessons she ever gave us...and although I hadn't quite realized it until this retreat, her fiat was the very thing that drew me to her and nurtured my devotion to her when I was seeking God's path for me. I certainly believe she was onto something beautiful and True when she surrendered herself to God in this way. May we all learn to follow her example and let us ask Mary, at whose Fiat the Son of God came to earth, to pray for us.



The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:30-38

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Song of Solomon 3:4

+JMJ+

The beautiful thing about life and God's will for us is that it evolves. He does not forever keep us in one place emotionally nor (in some cases) even surround us with the same friends, career, or place of residence. For if that were the case it would be easy to remain stagnant spiritually...and we know a sincere relationship with Him requires constant effort and growth on our part(s).

Many of my friends and family members struggle with this concept because it's simpler and more comfortable to remain with the familiar. When God brings new things or a need for change in our lives, many cling frantically to what they have known before (friendships, jobs, roles within their families or other relationships) because the thought of such drastic change, to some, is terrifying. If we are not entirely focused on the Lord, the thought that we are not in control can bring about anxious, worried thoughts. I admit that there are times in my life when it was hard to let go...but when we let go, we let God.

As someone who tends to be a complete control freak and desires things to be clean, organized, and efficient, I frequently send prayers up for peace, humility, and to let go and let God lead me. He knows my path far better than I could ever imagine for myself.

More than ever before, I'd say that the last two years or so of my life have been one, big, constant prayer of letting go and committing myself to trust in and follow the Lord into the world, wherever He would have me go. I began my previous blog, I'll follow You into the world, two years ago when I was preparing to graduate college and go out into the "real" world where God would put me. That blog has chronicled many of my thoughts, encounters with Christ, God-incidences, and experiences as I graduated college, began and completed a year of volunteer service in Chicago, and met, dated, became engaged to, and married my husband. Wow! How much can happen in two short years! When I started that blog I had no idea where I was headed other than to surrender wholly to God's path for me. In surrendering, following, and constantly praying He blessed me beyond measure and revealed to me my vocation. I cannot give enough thanks, praise, and gratitude to Him, our Mother Mary, all of the Saints who lifted up my prayers, or the experiences and people He brought into my life throughout the past several years, but especially the last two when I began discerning more seriously and fervently than ever before.

Now that I have found my vocation and taken vows everything has changed....and for that I am not worried or fearful, but am overflowing with joy! Surely I will continue to "follow Him into the world" the rest of my days (for that is the ultimate goal), but in many ways I have found a new place in which I'm supposed to be - which brings with it new focus, new prayers, and an exciting new path. As I embark on this journey to live out my vocation I feel it is only appropriate to bring closure to my former blog and begin this next one with the freshly discovered focus, priorities, and prayer intentions that only a Sacramental marriage can bring.

"I found him whom my soul loves"
Song of Solomon 3:4