24 December 2013

Thoughts on Marriages

This is a bit rambly and not cohesive. Sorry. It's just my thoughts today.

I'm in Utah for the Christmas Season, and what a season it is! Christmas came early to Marriage Equality supporters this year. In a crazy turn of events, Utah became the 18th state (in a slow, but steady march of states) to legal same-sex marriages. I know! I thought my fiancé was playing a joke on me when he told me on Friday. But it's all true.

All these couples who are patiently awaiting their turn to receive their license and stand before a justice of the peace has really got me reflecting on marriage and marriage ceremonies.

These couples astound me with their humbleness. Their quiet gratitude and overwhelming happiness to *finally* be legally married to the person they love. It's just. Wow. Just wow.

Puts the ritual into perspective.

There is no gown. There is no cake. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen. There is just them. Two people and a handful of loved ones on hand to witness the union.

Ben and I are planning our wedding, and we were talking about chairs for the ceremony. I suggested the metal chairs from the church, he suggested renting. Both of us have our reasons for our "sides," all of which are valid.

Today after seeing more pictures of women and men in day wear (not gowns or tuxes), glowing with their happiness, put all of our planning into perspective.

Chairs don't matter, people.

Cakes don't matter.

Nothing matters but that one moment when you commit to the other person.

I always knew that and have been trying to keep our wedding on the simple side, and Ben fully supports that idea. Creating a beautiful day for you and your family is a nice thing, but it's not an important thing.

For the record, we decided no chairs. We want to be surrounded by those we love.

Our day will be beautiful. But from now on, whenever I feel that our day is becoming too much of a show and not about us, I will remember these wonderful couples and bring it back into perspective to us.

Another article.

And one more.

02 November 2013

The Pregnant Pause

**No, I'm not pregnant. Not even close.**

I rediscovered a favorite song of mine today:
"The State That I'm In" by  Belle and Sebastian
More particularly, I'm in love with a line in the song.
"And so I gave myself to God
There was a pregnant pause before He said okay"
What makes this most interesting to me, is the lead sings "before he said okay" and the backup singer sings "before I said okay." They all take a pregnant pause.

Here are my thoughts on that.

I frequently find myself questioning the idiosyncrasies (dogmas) of the Church. The culture is overwhelmingly oppressive at times, and also a little antiquated...at least in certain strongholds. This leads me to question whether I fit in.

Further complicating this, I am what you would call a "Believing Agnostic*." Meaning, I can't prove God is there, and I can't prove They aren't. I hope God is real. I hope They are there. Otherwise, this whole thing is for naught. And that's where the believing comes in. I won't go so far as to say faith**, since many in the LDS community equate "faith" with "know." 

I believe because I want there to be a reason for all this. 

Back to the lyrics. 

Over the last several years, I have started on the path away. Slowly, I have felt myself turn from it and look out with hope that somewhere away from all this, there is something better. Somewhere where my doubts and questions are not so pronounced. 

However, I always find myself looking back over my shoulder at God and Their church and think "There is beauty there. There is truth there. I don't want to lose that. I don't want to stop being a part of this. I just want the hurt to stop." Then I say "Fine, I'll stay a bit longer. I will try to help make it better.....okay?" Then I feel myself take that deep breath, and say "okay" one more time. Truly committing with that second okay. 

God doesn't say "okay" back without hesitation, They could, They want us with Them. But They take a breath, and wait for us to make sure we're ready, and then they say with us "okay."

God is all about choice. Our Heavenly Parents will never force us back. They will never coerce us into making that step to them. They will wait with us, as we take our deep breath, examine our true feelings, and step back to them. 

They are always there with open arms, waiting. 

Always patient. 

Never forceful.

And that's why I keep choosing to believe. Because They have never made me. They have always just let me choose for myself. 

And that's what I need. 

* I've had a friend (rather successfully) argue, that we are all believing agnostics because none of us can prove God's existence, and we all take it on faith. She may be right, but I like this label. It helps me know how I fit in.

** "faith is a thing hoped for, but not seen."

19 August 2013

When It's Time

I've debated what to say in this post, and I've debated what to call it. It could have been called a great many things, but this is the most fitting title for the content...I think. Just sayin'.*

Back in May 2012, I took a new position at work that took me down a few floors from the lofty 7th floor where all the executives work. I was moved to the 4th floor, and the linguistic jokes would not stop. Needless to say, the elevator ride was always fun for me.

But what I didn't ever expect to happen was that this move, this one inconsequential decision in my life would bring about an even bigger change.

On May 22, I received a message on my work IM:
Hey Noel. My name is Ben and I am the really loud guy who sits over by the window behind you. I wasn't sure if you have moved into that desk permanently or not but wanted to at least introduce myself and I hope we are not too loud for you :)
We had a very formal conversation that day, that led to a very good work friendship.

Then tragedy struck. </sarcasm> He started dating someone else, because (as he likes to tell me) I was moving away to school, so this is my fault. As we were friends, I was really happy for him, and left for Baltimore and started school.

Fast forward to January 2013, and we started talking again. What started as a few short conversations on occasion quickly grew into talking every day. It was perfect: he was 2000 miles away and a good friend to have around. And the reverse was true for him. Nothing could happen. We were safe. Neither of us was looking for anything, and neither of us would do the long distance thing. Completely safe for us to be "just friends." Win!

Then every day during work slowly became all day, every day.

Then we started talking on the phone...about everything. He was fast becoming my best friend. The one person I could talk to about everything; a place where I felt safe to be me. We started talking about the possibility of something; of seeing where this friendship could actually go...

Sitting looking at the harbor.
On March 20, he flew out to see me and to see if this could be something. And it was. It was the most natural changing from friendship to relationship that ever has happened. It was so easy.

Walking through Patterson Park
We spent four days together, and didn't want to kill each other at the end. I'll call that a vacation/relationship win. I even told my parents about us...sorry, Mom and Dad, Cynthia knew the whole time...and Kristie knew for most of it...I regret nothing. ;)

I had been keeping this on the DL, I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I wanted to keep it between Ben and me. Until we were ready to talk about it. It was one of the things I loved most about us, we weren't trying to show off and be on display. We just wanted to be us, no interference from anyone else. Those who did know about us, weren't allowed to give advice. They just knew so that we had people to talk to.

We made plans for May, and went back to our real lives. Then work flew me out in April and we got a bonus visit.

First boy to buy me flowers.
There's not much to say about April. We hung out, went to see a friend in a musical...

Ben often looks unamused while I'm
laughing about what I just did/said to him.
Oh, except that this is when we finally decided it was time. (Don't click if you don't like sappy over shares, you've been warned.) And...I met his parents...he met Marney and Eloy (and survived!) and most of my friends. That bit was all stressful, but we made it through.

May rolled around and he flew out to go see American Idiot: The Musical with me. Can I get a best boyfriend ever?!

No, we did not plan to match my umbrella.
It's a thing that just happened.
There was also a color run and much mayhem to be had. These trips really are quite boring, we just hang out...eat...hang out...walk around...boring.

And a comic book museum, because why not?
Oh, there was a side trip to the temple, because what self-respecting 'Mormon' couple could refuse a chance to do something just. so. Mormon?! We certainly couldn't.

Yep, we became that couple.
I may have lied about how 'boring' this trip was. As evidenced by the picture below. I mean, seriously, TSA has nothing on this guy...

Being frisked by a stone policeman:
Makes everyone uncomfortable.
My cousin Gideon done went and got himself a high school 'ploma and so I had to go to Boise and celebrate.
Girls, he's single. But...
Going on a mission to Ghana...
2 years is nothing to wait.
Which was reason enough for Ben to drive up and meet my family. An entire weekend with my crew, and he still stuck with me. I don't know what else I could have done to scare him off.

At least he's smiling while unamused in this one.
I have to be honest, showing him around where I grew up was sort of fun. We did our quintessential walk along a water way...by walking the Green Belt. I even showed him the Boise Train Depot.

Love this place.
Once again work made it possible for me to be in Utah, so I flew in early to celebrate the 4th of July with him.

Best 4th of July ever.
When Ben left Boise, we both knew that what we had was different and special. We had started talking about the possibility of getting engaged, and I had been a girl and looked at a few ring options...found the one shown above and told Ben it was what I wanted. Like a good boyfriend, he listened and followed through.

Partied with Angie and Brady's family.
Brady and Angie always go to a barbecue at her uncle's house, and I have tagged along the last couple of years. I was really glad that I got to go again this year; I had actually been lamenting that I couldn't be there this year...and then work came through for the win. :) Ben got to come along as well, since his family is a little less celebratory than mine is on this holiday. After the barbecue we headed down to Riverton for the fireworks. It was a very good day, to say the least.

The next day, Ben and I partied it up at Lagoon together, and then drove down to Scofield, UT. Yeah, it's okay...I had no idea this place existed either. Take a minute to google if you want. I'll wait.


Ben is part of this rag-tag ensemble that gets together to play for Scofield's yearly Pleasant Valley Days celebration. I just happened to tag along. First up was a breakfast (not a place you would leave hungry) and a parade.

Waiting for the parade to start.
Ben's country is showing. <sigh>
The rest of the day was pretty lazy, we just hung out with his friends and wandered the very small town together. Everyone was really nice, and the whole thing was quite fun. Saturday night was the "main event" where Ben's little group played for 3 hours.**

The group. Scott sort of head's the whole thing.
No, literally the whole thing. The entire event.

I picked that shirt for him.
It was fun to get to just dance with his friends and have a good time. I haven't danced like that since the YSA dances that my brother-in-law used to DJ. We were just as spazzy, and had just as much fun.

After Scofield, I got to do the whole "meeting his kids" thing. I'm not sure how I managed to come out of that without a picture of all of us, but that's a thing that happened. Weird. We'll rectify that....Ben may have a photo that he hasn't shared with me...

No me in this, but two boys...so win!
I also did that "meeting the whole family" thing. I have to say, a barbecue at his parent's house is much easier to handle than an entire weekend. So I can be glad of that. Seriously, though, his family is super nice and his kids are super cute. I think I may like being part of this family. :)

Finally, Ben was here this weekend. And how cool is it that my ward decided to celebrate Ben coming by having Mormon night at the Orioles?! I know, it's like the Universe wants us together. Always finding reasons to celebrate us.

To say we were made for each other would be a bit of an understatement:

Sometimes, it's a bit scary how much we are alike. Haha. In all seriousness, we really do compliment each other well. We don't love all the same things, or anything, but we both can appreciate each other's interests. We're both familiar with the likes/interests of the other's enough to not dread having to do something "they like to do." Which is nice.

What weekend would be complete without one of my polyamorous dates? So my girls came along to the game with me, and I guess you could say Ben had a polygadate. Yep, that's a thing. For the record, I made Kalua pork with coconut rice. Yum. I feed my loves well. ;)

Polygadate: you're doing it right.
Notice the white shirts and ties in the background? Those three boys behind the person in orange are the missionaries for my ward. Funny kids there. They made me promise to introduce them to Ben on Sunday, and then they tracked us down after Sacrament to do just that. One of them keeps asking me details about the whole thing so that he can be prepared for when he gets back to Utah. Haha. Kid, I'm the wrong person to ask for dating/marriage advice!!

Jenni was nice enough to take several photos for us.
Ben was very particular.
On Saturday we headed into the District so that I could check one more of Ben's siblings off my list of "people to meet." Again, his family was super nice to me. I was even asked by my super cute soon-to-be niece if they could just call me Aunt Noël. Hey, I like being called that, so why not?!

Got to love having someone to sleep on
while on the Metro.
I love having Ben visit me in Baltimore. This city has become such a huge part of my life; it healed my soul when I left Utah and all the problems that were there. I love sharing this place with him and all the beautiful, quirky, strange, wonderful things that are here.

Ben likes to 'edit' photos. :)
I let him.
I definitely love being able to run along this harbor, so getting to take Ben to see some of my favorite places on my run was a huge plus today. I know everyone out there is super jealous that I get to run along water, and cobblestone roads. Yep. You are. Don't deny it.

Gratuitous "I'm in love" photo.
I couldn't have asked for a better person. I honestly couldn't. The long distance thing sucks more than you will ever understand, but it's all going to be worth it in the end, because he is the cheese to my macaroni.

And there was a very happy Willow Cat.


* I think Andee will understand what this means. ;)

** I'm saying most of the stuff about the "band" as tongue-in-cheek...because it's really the funniest thing ever. They only get together for this event, and sort of throw it together last minute. Which works out great, since they're all very talented individuals. It's really quite amazing of them. I believe they're called "The Specialists" which is sort of awesome.

26 June 2013


No one who reads this has to agree with what I'm about to say. Even though I am *really* smart, and consider my research and conclusion to be indisputable fact, that's my opinion. No one has to have the same opinion. That's the beauty of life, right? So...that being said, here goes:

Today's rulings from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) are exactly what they should have been.*

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be unconstitutional. Meaning, all marriages in states that recognize same-sex marriages will have equal protections under Federal Law. SCOTUS left the marriage debate up to states, upholding State's rights. This is how it should be. State's rights should be upheld. However, Federal laws shouldn't punish people who are adhering to their state's laws.


This couple can now be together, permanently. Provided, the green card comes through...which it now can, thanks to the DOMA ruling.

Proposition 8 was punted back down and the lower courts were slapped on the hands.** SCOTUS said that the defenders of Prop 8 in the appeal (who were private parties, not government representatives) had no standing to defend it. They further said, that it wasn't a federal decision and the state needed to work it out. This means that gay marriage *can* resume in California. Again, SCOTUS upheld the state's right to decide marriage. California's history is a bit muddy and hard to follow on this issue. Gay marriage was passed, then it wasn't, then it was, then it wasn't...(simplified history, of course).

Bottom line: now, it is.

Getting to these happy rulings from SCOTUS was a good thing, but doesn't entirely make up for the fact that they overturned the Voting Rights Act. I get *why* they ruled the way the ruled there, but that doesn't mean that I agree they did the right thing there. We will have to see how it plays out. I did not follow that ruling as closely as I should have. So I will make no real opinion-type statements.

Finally, Texas. Wendy Davis. Holy cow. Give that woman a cookie (read: medal). She filibustered her little heart out. And though she failed, she didn't lose the battle. The abortion bill died. Good work, Wendy, you're my hero.

All in all, today is a good day for me and my heart. My heart is full of happiness for my fellow people. I haven't been this happy since November when Maryland passed gay marriage protection. I voted for that, and I cried when it passed. I was *so* happy. Words weren't sufficient to express how it made me feel. Today, I am experiencing those same happy emotions.

To all my LGBTQ friends: Hurrah! One step at a time, until equal rights for all.

*Ideally, they would have said "Hey, gay marriage nationwide!" But that is not what was ever going to happen, and I think that we have the best outcome today for many reasons.

**That's the lay-person wording.

24 June 2013


I've been thinking lots of thoughts on parents this weekend. With good reason. A very dear set of friends lost their mother(-in-law) this weekend. I can not even process what that feels like.

Growing up, I was jealous of people who had four grandparents, because I only had three. Three amazing people who loved me. I am down to one grandparent. He's simply amazing, and I hope he never dies...okay, truth? I hate to see him living alone without my grandmother. If ever a two were meant to be, these two were. (Not that my other grandparents weren't, because they totally were.)

Losing grandparents sucks.

It must suck worse to lose a parent.

I have two of the greatest parents in the world. They're my best friends. We weren't always best friends; in fact, my mother and I fought more frequently than I care to admit when I was a teenager. But she is (and always was, I was just too much a teenager to see it) the best mom anyone could hope for.

Parents have three main roles (the way I see it):
  • First, they're your protector and teacher (when you're a kid). They do everything for you during this time, all the while teaching you what you need to know for later.
  • Second, they're your biggest nightmare (when you're a teenager). They're the bad guy always stopping you from doing that really fun thing that could get you "killed." 
  • Third, they become your best friend (when you're an adult). This happens because you look back over your life and realize that all those times you thought they were being mean, they were really saying "I love you too much to watch you be stupid." They were teaching you to be you.
At least, that's how my parents were. 

Not everyone is so lucky, I know. Some people have very different relationships with their parents.

But no matter what kind of parent they've been, it still sucks to lose one. 

This weekend I cried a bit to myself as I thought about my friends and what they must be feeling. Then I thought about my own parents and what I would feel if it were me losing one of them, and my heart broke for my friends. I wish I could be there with them during this time

So I say this to all my friends who have lost a parent:
I'm sorry. I am here for you no matter what you need. I can't say I know what it feels like, because I don't. But I know what loss feels like, and I can sit and listen to the tears any time you need me to. 
To my friends who have most recently lost, know that I am thinking of you and sending prayers to your whole family. I'm here however you need me. 

Lots of love.


18 March 2013

Conversations with Wesley

Maxwell wanted to say hi to me today. He's easy to talk to. It consists of "hi;" "how are you;" "i love you;""i miss you;" and "are you being good?" All of which are either parroted back to me, or I get a one word response. :)

It's freaking adorable and melts my heart every time.

But then there is Wesley. Who when you ask him what he's learning at school responds with "We're learning about things."

Yep. In school, Wesley learns about things.


11 March 2013

Love This.

From Chieko Oakazaki's Disciples (1998), an Exponent blogger found this passage on pages 78-79. Doesn't she sound like a prophetess?

"Here are some other demographic shifts: The number of never-married women in the Church is rising. So is the number of women who are the heads of household with dependent children. More women of color are joining our church, a church that is still predominantly white in its values, if not in its actual population. The middle-class ethics of hard work and upward mobility are not universally shared around the world or even in America. It seems inevitable to me that we will have an increasing number of women, both converts and lifelong members, who are dealing with drug-related problems, with depression, with both the reality and aftermath of abuse, with poverty, and with crime ... Another shift going on in America is a gradual change toward a more equal partnership between men and women in business, government, education, family life, and many other aspects of life. Many of our daughters and granddaughters will have very different opportunities to develop and use their talents than we have had, and they will encounter different expectations from women of our generation about the place they will occupy in the world. We need to make room in the Church for all of their energy, intelligence, and ability, or we may lose many of them. All the sisters in the Church need to understand that they share equally in the blessings of the gospel, including the spiritual strength that comes from a personal testimony of the Savior."

Contributed from LDS WAVE Facebook page.

16 February 2013

Pope's Message for Lent 2013, part 4 of 4

Take what Truth you find here and integrate it into your life. 
Leave any arguing about beliefs to yourself. I will not approve comments that argue belief.***


"Believing in charity calls forth charity"
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

4. Priority of faith, primacy of charity

Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 13), the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6), and makes us say: “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3) and “Maranatha!” (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20).

Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father’s will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbour; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ’s love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with his love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus’ filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man (cf. Rom 5:5).

The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbour”), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).

Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

15 February 2013

Pope's Message for Lent 2013, part 3 of 4

Take what Truth you find here and integrate it into your life. 
Leave any arguing about beliefs to yourself. I will not approve comments that argue belief.***


"Believing in charity calls forth charity"
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

3. The indissoluble interrelation of faith and charity

In light of the above, it is clear that we can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity. These two theological virtues are intimately linked, and it is misleading to posit a contrast or “dialectic” between them. On the one hand, it would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism. On the other hand, though, it is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith. For a healthy spiritual life, it is necessary to avoid both fideism and moral activism.

The Christian life consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love. In sacred Scripture, we see how the zeal of the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel and awaken people’s faith is closely related to their charitable concern to be of service to the poor (cf. Acts 6:1-4). In the Church, contemplation and action, symbolized in some way by the Gospel figures of Mary and Martha, have to coexist and complement each other (cf. Lk 10:38-42). The relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith (cf. General Audience, 25 April 2012). Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16). It is the primordial truth of the love of God for us, lived and proclaimed, that opens our lives to receive this love and makes possible the integral development of humanity and of every man (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 8).

Essentially, everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love. God’s gratuitous love is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us “fall in love with Love”, and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others.

Concerning the relationship between faith and works of charity, there is a passage in the Letter to the Ephesians which provides perhaps the best account of the link between the two: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:8-10). It can be seen here that the entire redemptive initiative comes from God, from his grace, from his forgiveness received in faith; but this initiative, far from limiting our freedom and our responsibility, is actually what makes them authentic and directs them towards works of charity. These are not primarily the result of human effort, in which to take pride, but they are born of faith and they flow from the grace that God gives in abundance. Faith without works is like a tree without fruit: the two virtues imply one another. Lent invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbour, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving.

14 February 2013

Pope's Message for Lent 2013, part 2 of 4

***Take what Truth you find here and integrate it into your life. 
Leave any arguing about beliefs to yourself. I will not approve comments that argue belief.***


"Believing in charity calls forth charity"
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

2. Charity as life in faith

The entire Christian life is a response to God’s love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Gal 2:20).

When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly “active through love” (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf.1 Jn 4:12).

Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is “walking” in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15). Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated (cf. Jn 15:14ff). Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice (cf. Jn 13:13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf. Jn 1:12ff); charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal5:22). Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

13 February 2013

Pope's Message for Lent 2013, part 1 of 4

Take what Truth you find here and integrate it into your life. 
Leave any arguing about beliefs to yourself. I will not approve comments that argue belief.***


"Believing in charity calls forth charity"
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.

1. Faith as a response to the love of God

In my first Encyclical, I offered some thoughts on the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. Setting out from Saint John’s fundamental assertion: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), I observed that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Faith is this personal adherence – which involves all our faculties – to the revelation of God’s gratuitous and “passionate” love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God who is Love engages not only the heart but also the intellect: “Acknowledgement of the living God is one path towards love, and the ‘yes’ of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never ‘finished’ and complete” (ibid., 17). Hence, for all Christians, and especially for “charity workers”, there is a need for faith, for “that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love” (ibid., 31a). Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and accordingly, under the influence of that love – “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14) – they are profoundly open to loving their neighbour in concrete ways (cf. ibid., 33). This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God’s love.

“Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! … Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working” (ibid., 39). All this helps us to understand that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely “love grounded in and shaped by faith” (ibid., 7).

08 February 2013

Beyoncé is Beautiful

I have seen a lot of people talk about the over-sexed half time show.

May I say, if you saw it as over sexed, the problem is with you? Not the show.

I watch a lot of R-rated movies. Swearing? Violence? Doesn't bother me. Overly sexual scenes? Problem. I don't watch those movies. Give me bloody violence any day.* I am super-sensitive, though, to seeing overly sexualized images. I don't want to see it. 

How do you know if something is overly sexual? The attitude of the person portraying it. What is the underlying feeling that THEY are portraying? When you see their face, what emotion do you see there? What attitude is in their eyes? Are they looking at you with lust or inviting you to lust? Then it's probably bad.
There was no invitation to lust in Beyoncé's eyes.

What Beyoncé did was powerful, beautiful, confident, and unapologetic. 

She walked out onto that stage and declared it her stage. She owned the stage and her body. And she doesn't care what you thought about it, because she did what she intended to.

In a male-dominated world, women's magazines spend an inordinate amount of time telling women how to "get a man." Why? Shouldn't a woman's magazine be about how to feel confident in our own skin, just to feel confident in ourselves? Without a man?

The answer is: 
Yes, the should, but they don't.

Beyoncé has a beautiful, curvy body that stands in stark contrast to what woman's magazines show as the ideal. She stood on that stage in a sea of "ideal" women, and she was not ashamed. She was not a shrinking flower. She stood next to them and looked beautiful, confident, and radiant. You weren't noticing her "flaws" because she wasn't. She stood there and declared herself to be just as beautiful as the rest of them, because she is.

In a world where an "ideal" is still being sold to women, we need more women like Beyoncé to stand up and own themselves. To break the chains of oppression (there! I said it) that we are bound with and declare them obsolete. To stand and say, "I don't fit the mold, but I am just as beautiful, confident, and wanted as the ideal I will never be." Because when one woman does it, the rest of us can start to.

She created a beautifully safe place for the non-ideal. She did it without men (everyone on stage with her was female) and she did it without apology. 

Think what you want about her show. Define her as over-sexed if you will. But remember, when you do that your definition of her will not stick. She defined herself and no one else can do that for her anymore. She defined herself as Confident, Powerful, Important, and Beautiful. When she walked out on that stage, she took who she was into her own hands, and out of the hands of men (and women for that matter).

No one can take that from her now.

*The Hollywood kind. I don't really want to see people hurt in real life. That's not good, at all.

16 January 2013

On Panic Attacks

------------------   I think this should be trigger free, but it may not. Fair warning.   ------------------

My grandmother had Alzheimer's Disease. For over a decade of my life, I watched as I slowly lost her. One day at a time, my grandmother stopped being the person I had known, and became a person I didn't. I still loved her fiercely. She was - in my mind - still the vibrant, vivacious, and loving lady she had always been. The person before me was just a shadow of the person she was. Then one day she left me completely.

          Part of me was relieved. 

                    Part of me was devastated.

          Part of me was elated. 

                     Part of me broke down in tears.

I have childhood memories of state homes, visiting my brother. 
They are tender memories. 
And one day, he left me too. 

So when my program director tells us that she is looking into getting a participant that she can guarantee has a cognitive disability in the form of mild dementia, my stomach knotted and the tears pressed on the backs of my eyes.

The longer I sat there listening to everyone talk about the study and cognitive impairments, the knot grew.

I felt myself shrinking on the inside. 
Hiding from the pain, the despair, the feelings. 
I had to choke down the desire to run from the room. 
I had to keep my stomach where it belonged. 
I had to keep the tears from forming.

I stayed silent.
Silently planning on asking to be excused from that session for personal reasons.
The feelings were too close, the fear too real.

Then salvation. 

They were not calling on any more participants. I would not have to ask to be excused from the session. I could breathe again. And breathe I did.

When I got home, I turned on my music and climbed in the shower. As the water washed away the tension, I breathed.

I am now in my safe zone. I have my music, and my brain is distracted. 

I can breathe. 

Not deeply, not yet. The feelings are still to real. Too close. But I will survive this moment of panic, this bit of anxiety. 

**Deep Breath**

Tomorrow can be better.

13 January 2013

Hearts and Reason

Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point.
My hearts has its reasons for wanting what it wants, but my poor brain cannot wrap its head* around why.

No matter how many times my brains says "heart, that's not possible." My heart goes on believing that its reasons are infallible. It sees things and knows things that my brain cannot.

One day, they'll get together on the same page, right?

Full quote:
Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C'est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c'est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.          Blaise Pascal

*See what I did there?