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A Lenten Beginning: Sacrifices, Laments, and a Humble Plan

As I write this, I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed, awaiting the EWTN app on my Roku to turn on so that Mom and I can watch the "live" (read: rebroadcast from earlier) Mass from Rome in a couple of minutes. Since Mom is much more comfortable with the Spanish language, we're going to watch it on the EWTN en Español feed. As you can guess by this action, we were unable to get to Mass today.

We knew that we weren't going to be able to go to the 7 a.m. or noon-time Masses because of the heavy rain predicted for those times but I had hope for the 7 p.m. Mass. Sadly, due to the rain (it apparently hasn't stopped raining all day) and the flooding in the streets, we're going to be stuck at our apartment until possibly Friday. Insert sad panda face here. Thankfully, we stocked up on food and other possible necessities in anticipation of the rain and street flooding so we'll be fine stuck inside for a couple of days.

I really, really wanted to get to confession and Mass today. I wanted those ashes on my forehead. I wanted to start Lent "right." I'm currently fighting back tears from the disappointment and the frustration of it all. I know it's silly but I cannot shake off the feeling that I'm not starting Lent the proper way. Or, at the very least, the way I wanted it to start. It's bad enough that I cannot fast nor abstain from meat. I feel like this penitential season is easier for me than everyone else and it makes me feel like I'm a terrible Catholic as a result. I'm constantly reminded of how my daily life is compromised of continuous sacrifices and penances but it still doesn't seem like enough.

My (once again) vitamin D-deficiency-induced chronic fatigue makes me sacrifice my social life and having a "normal" work life outside the home. It also requires me to swallow my pride and ask for help when I cannot do something myself; something hard for someone as independent and (once) active as I am. I also think that I end up sacrificing my want of a husband and family because these things aren't exactly guy magnets. On the contrary, they scare guys away.

I know my life isn't "easy" but I'm so used to it that I don't even consider it hard. This is because I have the luxury of being able to work from home and thus sleep as much as my body requires it. I have a roof over my head and we've been able to create a household budget to be able to afford the food that helps keep me fed and as healthy as possible. I've chosen to help my mother with the household expenses through whatever freelance writing work I can get. I help take care of her when she needs it but I don't have other responsibilities beyond that. I'm so very fortunate in many ways others aren't.

Sure, I can't go on vacation or buy any material things that I may want. If I want something, I have to work hard and save up for it for months if it requires money. Even then, I think long and hard about whether I truly need it instead of just wanting it. If I don't need it, I end up giving it up for something that is necessary. But I see this all as a part of being an adult; of putting needs ahead of wants.

I guess this is something I have to work on this Lenten season -- being okay with my limitations and letting go of all the things I want to do (or think I need to do).

Humility is my chosen word this Lent; my chosen virtue to work on to combat that wounded pride that my independent and egotistical nature struggles with when I have to admit "defeat"; to admit that I can't do what I want to and do what I can. Lord knows how much this proud gal needs to be humbled and I'm hoping God grants me the graces necessary to become and stay humble. I hope all of this will make me be more open to His plans and will for my life; that it will make me more worthy of an eternity in Heaven.

I feel like this plan -- to cultivate humility -- was set in motion when I did the 54-day Rosary novena late last year when I asked to become more like our Blessed Mother. In a providential twist, she and St. Therese -- another beautiful model of humility -- became my co-patronesses for the year; my models who have also been my constant companions over the last couple of months. I didn't know why both kept popping up in my life so much but now it's starting to make sense. So, that is what I'm going to do -- look at their lives, learn from them, and work on emulating them this season and beyond. There is also something else -- or, I should say, someone else through a specific devotion -- that I will focus on during Lent that will hopefully help with my focus but it deserve its own blog post so stay tuned for that.

Does anyone else have any particular goals they're working on during Lent?

Anyway, this is it for now. I have some Lenten reflections to get to before it gets any later in the day.

I hope you're all having a good start to the Lenten season.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Early Lenten Start and Moments of Bliss

Well, here we are -- Shrove Tuesday and the feast of the Holy Face of Jesus. While I am not eating pancakes or indulging in food, I am "indulging" in my prayer time and more reading, which has been lovely.

I started some of my Lenten practices a couple of days early to make the necessary modifications (e.g. time management hiccups) in order to be ready for tomorrow. Social media has both surprisingly easy to give up... yet hard to avoid.

While I've signed out of all my accounts (and have been since Sunday), I still absentmindedly (and out of habit) find myself typing up the first couple of letters and hitting "enter" when I see that particular social media website pop up. Again, I'm so happy I'm logged out because it becomes a reminder of what I have decided to do. I've also blocked cookies from my phone's browser so that I cannot log into any website that requires a password.

A little while ago, I was listening to "La Vie en Rose" as the rain started pouring on my rooftop. I stood up from the couch and went to the window to look at the rain falling from the mostly cloudy sky. I could see the sunlight and blue skies peeking through pockets that were untouched by the clouds. I kept listening to the song and listening to the rain mixing into the melody in perfect harmony. I was alone in the living room, a rare moment of quiet for a busy apartment building setting, and it was a beautiful moment of sheer bliss.

It's these little things and moments that we miss when we're so caught up on social media and on being on top of notifications. I'm sure I've missed a lot of things on social media... but I didn't miss this one beautiful moment that appeals to my romantic nature. Not only that, it reminded me of the beauty that God has bestowed on us; the beauty we often overlook because our attention is on something superficial and fleeting. For this moment -- for these realizations -- I'm grateful.

We're expecting heavy rain -- and even some thunderstorms -- tomorrow. I don't know if I will be able to make to Mass and/or church for the distribution of ashes because our local streets flood and my car is pretty low to the ground. That and I'm still feeling a little under the weather (read: lightheaded), which makes driving under these conditions a little more dangerous. Still, I will pray and ask St. Scholastica for a little break in the rain to and from our parish so that I may be able to attend confession and Mass tomorrow.

I think this is the first Lent that I actually prepared for and am ready for... which, of course, means very little because plans can change. Still, I look forward to tomorrow and the rest of the season. I know it's a penitential season but I feel like I really need this time to do some major interior housecleaning and relationship (with God) mending. Anyone else ready for the Ash Wednesday?

Anyway, I just want to write a little something to test this whole "daily blogging" format I have in mind. I think I'll wait until the end of each day to write the post, publish it, and then schedule the link to be posted on social media in the morning the following day, but don't quote me on it. Still trying to figure out how this is going to work as well. :)

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week and that you're (more or less) ready for tomorrow and the next 40(+) days!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :)

My 2019 Lenten Plans... Along with a Few Surprises

I have decided to become somewhat of an "urban hermit" for this Lenten season. What does that mean? Well, in a nutshell, I want to devote myself and my time to more prayer and work (oh, hey, Benedictine ways ;)). I want to detach myself from as many worldly distractions as possible. This means no social media, checking my email twice a day (and not replying unless it's
life or death" important), long periods of not touching my laptop or anything that has internet capabilities, and seriously detachment from my smartphone and all the shiny apps it contains.

I will be rolling out the details of my plans slowly as the Lenten season progresses. You won't know what I'm doing until I've begun doing them, but here are the three major things that I needed to share with everyone with whom I communicate frequently.

I will be "breaking up" with my smartphone over a period of 30-days, which may extend a bit after Lent is over. I have the specific time frame already marked in my calendar. Friends have been warned that I will be unavailable and alternative ways of communicating have been established for those who want (really, need; e.g. editors, coworkers) to keep in touch during this time.

I am planning on doing a mini-retreat at home. I'll talk more about this when I begin but it's something that I've looked forward to doing on my own for quite some time. I want and need this time for just myself and for my relationship with God -- with no one else's comments or interference. It'll just be whatever God wants to reveal to me and what I want/need to say to him. People often feel the need to chime in on what I "have to" do or how I "have to" do it and, to be completely honest, it irritates me. My relationship with God is personal. Sure, I know I need help once in a while but that's what spiritual directors are for, right? I hope this retreat will help me focus more on God and less on what the outside world thinks I should do to better my spiritual life. Are we seeing the "urban hermit" pattern yet?

I will be updating my progress daily via this blog. No, your eyes don't deceive you; I will be blogging daily during Lent. I will be setting a specific time in the evening, every day, to update any progress (or epic fails) along the way. I've always been curious to see how people do when they cut back on social media and smartphone usage after relying on them for so long so I want to share my experience with you. Knowing myself, I will stumble more than a couple of times but that's okay. I'm giving myself permission to not be perfect; to learn from my mistakes but to also not say, "Well, I messed up so it's time to throw in the towel." Also, it'll hold me accountable for my actions, which I need.

There may also be surprises along the way but I guess you'll just have to keep coming back to find out what they are. ;)

I think I've figured out how to share these blog posts and articles published onto my social media accounts without my having to log in so some of y'all can still get the links if it's easier that way. However, I will be completely gone from the evening of Shrove Tuesday until Easter Sunday. Yes, that includes Sundays as well.

I know some of what I will share (as I roll out my plans) will seem extreme at first but, trust me, I've not only researched and planned this out for weeks. I'm doing all of this because I know I have to make some drastic changes in my life in order to put myself back on the right path. I'll also share what's been going on and why these changes were necessary later on.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these things while I had the brain capacity for them. I'm currently having another (and slightly worse than before) chronic fatigue relapse so I'm not able to concentrate for long periods of time. In fact, I'm going to take a nap as soon as I publish this post so I can focus on a couple of articles I have due (and overdue) without the crazy mental fog.

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)

The Perfect Storm That Did Me In

Take one burnt-out writer constantly battling writer's block, add lack of vitamin D (and add a couple of cold winter storms for good measure), then add a giant helping of people being a little too dramatic and suffocating on social media. Mix it all together and you get someone who is so overwhelmed, she has to take nearly a month to recover... and she's not fully there yet.

Yes, this is what happened to me. No, I have not fully recovered from the burnout, yet.

It's not easy being a freelance writer, especially when you have to come up with new material every two to three days. I've felt burnt out since late December when I had one of my busiest months. It's still taking me a lot of brainstorming to come up with new article topics -- and then more time to research for each post -- but I'm slowly coming out of the writer's block fog that I've been battling for weeks.

As some of you long-time readers may remember, I was diagnosed with a severe vitamin-D deficiency mid-summer last year. That was the reason why I was so tired all the time. After getting outdoors and getting more sun, I started to recover. I wasn't oversleeping anymore. All the little symptoms associated with the deficiency started going away. I was feeling more like myself... and then the lack of sun knocked me back down.

For years I'd noticed that every winter I'd get more and more fatigued. I had simply assumed it was the cold weather lulling me to sleep. It was as if I were a bear and my body just wanted to hibernate all winter long. That or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Now, with the diagnosis, I finally know why; my body just needs more of the vitamin than it gets.

We've been hit with rainstorm after rainstorm in Southern California since the New Year so guess who's been feeling more lethargic lately. Yep. Symptoms include fatigue, lack of concentration, and mental fog -- all which impeded my creativity and impacted my work. Cue the "Ohhh!" chorus.

The doctors said it was going to take a couple of months for me to recover from the deficiency and, unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to fully recover. Thankfully, it's nowhere near as bad as it was last year or the year before. If I know there will be a couple of hours or a day between rainstorms, I get out and I soak up as much vitamin-D as I can before the next storm hits. It's helped a lot... but the storms are getting more frequent and lasting longer so I'm dealing with some symptoms again. Can Spring (my favorite season) hurry up and get here already? Please and thank you!

Last, but not least, I was feeling overwhelmed with social media. I was already feeling physically tired but the drama on social media pushed me beyond my limits. I honestly felt like crying every time I logged in to an account and saw the notifications along with how many messages I had to attend to.

The content of the messages wasn't helping. That's not to say all messages were bad; they weren't. There was just so much bickering, so many complaints, so much gossip and badmouthing and other things that just drained me outweighing the good. It got so bad that I even had to ask my closest friends to give me a breather; no texts or messages on any kind. I needed a full-on technology break. It didn't last long -- just 2-3 days because of work -- but you'd be surprised at how much those screen-detox days helped.

During those days, I would completely shut down my phone. I wouldn't touch my laptop. If I had work to do (and I always do), I'd write down the bulk of what I was going to submit. If it was a deadline day, I'd only get on my laptop long enough to write it out and send it to my editors. Sure, it meant "wasting" more time writing and rewriting but it was worth my sanity staying intact.

That is why it took me nearly a month (3 more days to a full month) to write another blog post. That is why so many tweets and messages went (and have still gone) unanswered.

I'm going to be honest with y'all (and I hope this is a gentle reminder to those who've known me for years): I hate drama of all types. I hate gossip. I absolutely loathe people who message me solely to badmouth someone else. It drains me. Yes, we all need to vent and get stuff out of our systems, but this sort of things emotionally drains me. In person, I usually change the topic as soon as someone starts down this path but it's somehow more difficult through technological means.

What's worse was that I hadn't noticed how this was affecting how I interacted with people until I hit that wall. It was like I would absorb people's negativity, ruining my day and getting me in super cranky mood as a result of it. I was a lot more impatient with everyone, including myself. I would find myself complaining more, which I dislike intensely. I hated the way it had altered the way I thought and acted. Sure, you can say that it was just the perfect storm that did me in and that it was no wonder I was acting the way I was but, really, I don't want that to be an excuse. I should've known better.

A little over two and a half weeks ago, I attended a silent retreat at my parish and it was sheer bliss. I shut off my phone. I listened to the talks and took a copious amount of notes which I still re-read; the talks were so good! I only had to worry about writing down all the excellent content while the priest gave the talks and then focus on prayer during Mass, adoration, and the recitation of the Rosary by all the women (it was an all women's retreat) that attended the retreat.

The retreat and the overload of information from social media inspired me to make some changes in my life; changes I've already begun rolling out in small doses and will fully implement during the Lenten season. Just what they are... well, you'll have to stay tuned for the next blog post since I don't want to make this one longer than it already is.

I want to wrap up this blog post by saying that even though all of this pushed me beyond my limits, I'm grateful for it. It helped remind me that there are things more important things -- such as health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual -- that need to be taken care of. Self-care isn't selfish and if one needs to do take a couple of days (or a couple of hours) just to sit in silence to recharge, that's perfectly fine.

I'm grateful that God reminded me to take an inventory of my priorities and challenged me to make some hard (but important) decisions in order to place my priorities in the right order.

I'm grateful to have been reminded of who I am and who I'm not; of what I value and what makes me uncomfortable. It may not suit others but that's okay. I need to do what is right for me... as long as it doesn't cause any harm or trouble for anyone else.

I'm grateful to have a new plan (well, plans; one for each situation) of action to help me recover from the burnout. As I said, I'll share these in the next blog post.

I thank God for the gift of my routine prayer life that helped keep me sane. I would retreat to a quiet spot in my apartment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (every 3 hours while I was awake) and/or the Rosary, bringing a much-needed peaceful respite during an otherwise chaotic day.

If you feel burnt out, find out why and do what you need to do. Forget about the FOMO; it's not worth putting your health at risk.

Alright, that's it for now. I'm going to go enjoy the rest of "Fantaisie-impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66" by Frederic Chopin before I have to go to do something else.

I hope y'all have had a lovely week thus far.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Questions Regarding Blindness and Personal Decisions

Lately, I've been thinking about blindness and the personal decisions I'd make if I were to go blind. No, this isn't something I'm experiencing (thankfully). I mean, my vision is terrible and I need the help of glasses and contact lenses to see clearly but that's not a factor in this. "If I had been blind -- literally or metaphorically -- would I have made the same decisions?" is a question I've been asking myself lately.

What brought this on? Re-reading Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. I had previously listened to it on audiobook and I had loved it, but I decided to read it more slowly and carefully and I'm so glad that I did. There were many things that made me stop and think but nothing quite like when he talked about our uber materialistic culture and how consumer-driven images have a greater influence on society as a whole than God and our faith.

With "influencers" making visually pleasing posts on Instagram and vloggers and celebrities getting paid (or simply receiving free items) to be seen wearing or featuring specific products for advertising purposes, there's no escaping it. We see things set up on Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms in such a way that we end up wanting it. It doesn't even have to be products. People only show what they wish to show... in a way that plays up the best of the qualities.

Ever come across an Instagram account where the couple shares videos and pictures of their adventures, completely "loved up"? How about someone getting something you've always wanted but know you perhaps can't afford? It's easy to get caught up in this game where you become envious and want what someone else has. I'm a very visual person; perhaps that's why my favorite social media platform is Instagram. However, I'm also very careful about what accounts I follow (or who I allow to follow me back) in order to cut back on anything that would bring out the worst in me.

In my teens into my 20s, I often wanted things because they were visually pleasing; because a certain influential person used it; because I thought it would make me loved. I wanted the *insert brand name and item* because it was a symbol of wealth (whether I had wealth or not was a different story) or "cool" factor. I kept trying to keep up with the Joneses', the pretty people, and it all left me feeling terribly empty.

Now I come across these things and go, "Nope, I have student loans to pay off. Nope, I have my trip to fund. Nope, I know that that company donates to Planned Parenthood and/or exploits their workers." That's not to say that when I come across something -- e.g. a book or a puzzle (I'm a jigsaw puzzle fanatic) -- I don't want it, but now I feel like the Holy Spirit and my Guardian Angel tag-team to help me stop and remember that I truly don't need the item; that it will not enrich my life in any way. Hey, I'm saving up for a trip for an annual Oblate retreat so I don't want to be tempted to get anything I don't need.

Beyond that -- and coming back to the topic of this blog -- I thought about how much different life would be if I were blind; again, literally or metaphorically. If I were blind, would I want even a quarter of the stuff I want? If I didn't see the covers of books or pretty puzzles or even that awesome dress I've been wanting to get, would I want them? If I couldn't see what people looked like, who would I fall in love with -- the man who was handsome with some moral defects or the man who may not be considered the best looking but has strong morals and a love for Christ? Who would I listen to -- the celebrity selling me something I don't need or the person who might be as poor as a church mouse but who would inspire me to live a holy life? I hope the answers I came up with for this hypothetical set of questions are the same that I will choose despite having all my senses (thanks be to God).

When I fall in love -- if it's God's will for me -- I pray that I fall in love with a man who loves God above all; a hardworking, respectful man who loves his family. I hope I see who he truly is instead of being blinded by what he may want me to see. And, likewise, I hope he sees who I am deep down -- the good AND the bad -- and gets past the superficial stuff I may be unconsciously putting out there.

I hope that when I want something, it's because it'll bring me closer to my ultimate goal of getting into Heaven. I pray that God will remove as much of the materialistic side I may have as possible. I pray that I will always want to work hard but also share what God has blessed me with through that hard work. I still have a long way to go but I'd like to think I'm not a total lost cause when it comes to this.

Have any of you stopped to think about these things or am I just a massive weirdo who likes to ponder about these things?

Anyway, just some of my thoughts I wanted to share.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Shhh! Silence!

It took me a week and a half to update this blog because I've been trying to embrace the silence in my life, including that which comes from eschewing social media and technology as much as possible.

When the New Year started, I decided to embrace the silence and calm of Advent and extend it all year 'round. I've felt burnt out on social media -- and the internet in general -- for so long that take any and every opportunity to stay offline. I love that I can go days without logging in and people don't notice. I suspect that no one really cares, either. It's both humbling and wonderful.

Of course, it's not easy to stay completely offline. Almost everyone in my life seems to live on social media... or, at the very least, use it to communicate rather than sending emails or text messages. I've tried to get a few people to text more regularly so I can use social media less but it seems like too much of a hassle to them. Thankfully, my best friend probably dislikes social media more than I do so our friendship is lived out offline, albeit through texts since we're both in different countries at the moment.

I use the internet for work as well. I can't write or send in my work without the use of it. Although I sometimes wish I had something else to do, I do actually enjoy writing. It also seems to be what God wants me to continue doing. Trust me, there have been times when I've said, "God, what else can I do?" during Mass and an internal voice says, "Write. Just write" before I get a lot more writing work.

I'll admit that I envy those who have fuller lives offline, giving them excuses to avoid the use of it. I admire (and envy) my best friend and two other dear friends who are so busy with work (bestie) and their families (two other friends) that they don't have a lot of time to sit around to scroll through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. I wish that were the case for me -- that I had other things going on that would give me an excuse to avoid it.

Actually, my time has been taken up by prayer and housework lately. I pray as many hours in the Divine Office and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, I took a break from writing this to pray Vespers. Do you know how long it takes me to get through all my morning prayers when I wake up -- and I do intentionally pray before I do anything else? Anywhere between half an hour to an hour, depending on how much I have to do and how asleep I am. If you think that's too long, think about how much time you spend scrolling through social media each morning. Yes, that's where I got my time to pray -- using social media less and using that time to pray in silence. Ditto with housework.

I enjoy the silence. I didn't always use to. In fact, silence made me uncomfortable. If I'm being completely honest, it still occasionally does. Sometimes I feel like I need to have an audiobook, a podcast, or some music on even when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Why is that? If I feel so overstimulated, why do I feel the need to fill the silent moments with more noise instead of just letting my mind simmer down in the silence? For those of you who feel burnt out and overstimulated by noise and social media, I ask the same questions. Think about them. Why do you add more when you already feel overwhelmed?

For me, it came down to the fact that it's because it's what I've been accustomed to... and what scared me. Most of us are used to having dozens of things going on at once. Most of us can't even read one book at a time; we need to have at least two going on at once. We have many tabs on our browsers open. We have our phones closely because of the FOMO and the addiction to those pesky notifications. We have music or something on in the background while we do just about anything in our waking hours.

I had one big question to ask myself as I embarked on this journey: What was I so afraid of that I needed to keep noise in my life at all times? I'm still not quite sure I know the full answer but I have a feeling that perhaps I've been afraid of hearing what God had to say to me.

I'm genuinely afraid that I won't have the strength or courage to do what God may call me to do. I fear that I'll just crumble under stress or discouragement if I fail to do what is asked of me. I did that with my vocation discernment for a long time. When I finally opened up myself to whatever God willed for me -- even if it was something that took me away from something I wanted to do -- the silence stopped bothering me as much. Opening up myself to His will and not my own helped... but I still occasionally have my moments of self-doubt and that's when I want to default to bringing in more noise into my life.

As a budding Benedictine Oblate, I've had to learn to use my time more purposefully; to not waste it away like I use to. I try to work AND pray in silence as much as possible. Think cleaning an apartment in which two adult women live is easy? Nope. It's neverending cleaning, cooking, and washing. Instead of waiting to clean one or two days a week, I try to do little bits every day. I try to do one thing at a time because my concentration is so horrendous from multitasking for most of my life; also done in silence since I've found that it helps with concentration. All of that silence and work adds up and that usually means I don't have much time for anything else before I have to (correction: choose to) shut my devices (iPod touch, iPhone, Kindle, laptop, TV, etc.) off.

As I try to keep up with the Divine Office AND the Little Office, I have less time to scroll aimlessly through social media. I turn off all social media and emails at 9:59 p.m. and don't pick them up again until the following day. If I don't feel tired enough to sleep at 10 p.m., I take out a book and read. I'm trying to "wean" myself off of using the Kindle at night, opting to use a booklight and read a physical book. I've had a weird sleeping schedule (anywhere between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.) for about two weeks now so I'm trying to see if that helps get my internal clock back on track.

In the morning, I don't touch anything that isn't part of my prayer routine. Most days lately, I don't even have time to go on social media until the afternoon because I spend most of the early morning hours praying or making breakfast or doing something else. It's a routine that I've been loving most days. Yes, some days are harder than others -- especially when I'm feeling more sociable -- but it's been what has best worked for me and my spiritual life.

It all comes back to God. I'm embracing silence to best hear Him, even if I fear I'll fail. I'm embracing the Benedictine spirituality because it's what's helped me grow in my spiritual life the most; what's helped my relationship with God. Yes, that sometimes means praying when I can be doing something else like sleeping or chatting online. I choose to pray before I do anything because I know that as soon as I check emails and/or social media, I won't be able to concentrate on the prayers. All of this is done as quietly and intentionally as possible.

My routine isn't perfect. Sometimes I will log into social media or hit the "email" app out of habit. Sometimes I will turn on the KUSC or Overdrive apps because silence is bothering me. When this happens, it usually means I need to stop and listen to what God may be trying to say to me. Still, I try and start over if I have to. That's better than giving up or not even trying in the first place.

Does anyone else have the occasional problem with silence? If so, have you figured out what has been causing it? If you've been able to break a social media habit or the habit to have continuous noise in your life, do you have any tips you can share?

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm sure a lot of what I wrote was me going around in circles or not making much sense but I needed to get it out as a way to hold myself accountable for continuing this routine. That and it's almost 8 p.m. and I haven't had dinner yet. Oops. Yet another thing that I will need to do that will cut into my social media time before 10 p.m. Darn. ;)

I hope you've all been having a lovely month so far.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

I'm Letting Him "Court" Me: Where I am in My Vocation Discernment

"Let him court you," was the phrase that popped up in my mind after nighttime prayers this past Wednesday.  "Let Jesus court you."

I started. I was putting my Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on my bedside table and I laughed uncomfortably. "Wait, what? *awkward giggle* How can Jesus 'court' me? What does that even mean?!" I was confused as to why such a phrase would pop up in my mind. I'm still confused as to what that phrase means.

Before the New Year began, I made peace with the idea that God may be calling me to stay single. As much as my heart desires marriage and a family, I've resigned myself to God's will. If it's His will that I stay single for the rest of my life, I'm not going to fight it.

I certainly made efforts to get out there and meet people last year. It was... not fun. I didn't meet anyone I could potentially see as more than a friend. There were too many yellow and red flags. I even went on Catholic Match for a couple of weeks and was reminded of why I hate (yes, hate) online dating sites. I'm not calling it quits because of that but I have finally accepted that perhaps I'm just not meant to marry.

Does it stink? Tremendously. Am I still willing to meet more guys and date/court? Of course. I'm not closing myself off to the possibility... but I've decided to live my life as if I am going to stay single.

What does that mean? For me, it means actively pursuing my lay Benedictine oblate discernment (side note: I'm still waiting to hear back from a specific monastery). I'm no longer going to play the "what if I can't make it to an annual retreat in a couple of years because I'll have a family?" game. I'm not guaranteed a husband and/or children. However, the Benedictine lifestyle and spiritually has been wonderful for the state of my soul and spiritual life. If I am blessed with a husband and/or children in the future, I'll figure it out then.

It means planning my time and money towards things I may need as a single laywoman -- my own emergency fund, getting rid of my only debt (student loans for 3 degrees), and making sure I can take care of myself if I need to.

It means doing what I can to make sure I stay on the proper path that will lead me closer to God.

Perhaps that's what "let Jesus court you" means. Maybe it means living my life in a way that follows Christ radically (for our day and age); in a way that allows me to unreservedly give my whole heart and life to God. Perhaps letting Jesus "court" me means that I need to let go of the little apprehensions that stem from fear and lack of trust and let him guide me with the rest of my vocation discernment.

I'm also open to the possibility that "let Jesus court you" means that I'm called to become his bride as a consecrated virgin. I've discerned enough to know that the religious life isn't for me -- and I'm also too old to enter the order I would've loved to have joined if it were my vocation. If I'm called to this, it'll be a new adventure but one I'm prepared to embark on. I will certainly be in good company.

My mother -- like most parents of only children -- doesn't seem to keen on the idea that there's a possibility that I won't marry; that I won't give her at least one grandchild. However, I've entered a season of my life where, despite the love I have for her, my sole goal to is to do God's will... even if it goes against she and/or I want.

Perhaps the phrase was just a fluke; a random phrase that popped up in my head that has no actual significance. Who knows. All I know is that whatever God has in store for me, I made it my (only) resolution to continue abandoning my selfish will to His. Last year He showed me that the decision I made to abandon myself to His Divine Providence was the best decision I ever made. This year, I want to go a little further and let go of the little things I was (and, honestly, still am) afraid to let go of.

Please say a prayer for me as I start this new adventure... because it feels like a new adventure. This all feels like the start of one of the greatest and most thrilling things God will have in store for me.

Alright, Jesus... take the lead. Everyone else. welcome on the journey!

Merry Christmas, Everyone! Happy 11th Anniversary, Blog!

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) 

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you've all had (and are still having) a lovely day full of happiness, joy, laughter, and love. 

My mom had the rare Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work so we went to Midnight Mass last night. It was our first ever Christmas Midnight Mass (or Midnight Mass, period) and we fell in love with the Latin Mass all over again. It was a High Candlelit Mass and it was the most beautiful and reverent Mass I've ever had the blessing to witness. If ever I needed anything to breathe new life into my spiritual life, this was it. I was already planning on stepping up my Mass attendance to at least 2-3 times a week but now I'm downright giddy with anticipation about the next time I can attend daily Mass at my parish.

Today also marks the 11th (!!!) anniversary of this blog! I know I went M.I.A. for a month but I had a good reason. Basically, I was burnt out. I've been busy with work while running on empty from social media overload. I needed a break from everything and the last 10 days of Advent seemed like the perfect time to take that break. Thankfully, I also got a break from work this week so I'll be able to de-stress even more. Cue a self-care montage of me watching movies, reading books, drinking tea, baking, and silly dancing around my apartment for the rest of the week. lol.

To be completely honest, I was also unsure if I was going to continue this blog. It seems like almost no one reads blogs anymore. After some soul searching, I decided to keep my blog... and severely cut back on my social media usage. The break from writing and social media showed me that I truly missed blogging and that social media brings out the worst in me. Yes, it's wonderful for catching up with friends and all but I saw a very vain, proud, and angry side of me coming out lately and I hated it. I didn't feel like myself. I wasn't sure what was triggering it... until I completely cut social media out of my life. Not only do I feel like myself again, but those horrible traits -- especially anger -- also seem to have virtually disappeared. There is peace in my life and I feel happier and less stressed. I'll keep my accounts to catch up with those who choose to contact me through them and to post newly published articles but I'm done using it as I had for the past couple of years.

I also decided that I'm going to change the format of my posts. They'll be a lot more like the ones I posted when I first started this blog 11 years ago. If you weren't around that long ago, you'll see what I mean. ;)

Anyway, this is just a little update for y'all. 

Yes, the winners of the Magnificat Advent app were notified and given their codes before Advent, even if I didn't post it on here. 

Yes, we were able to do the 54-day Rosary novena (thanks, everyone!), even if I had to schedule the tweets and FB page posts for the last couple of days while I was on a social media break. :) 

Yes, I will be returning to blogging more often... God willing. 

Again, I hope you are all having a wonderful day and that you continue to have a lovely Christmastide season. For those of us who celebrate through February 2nd (Candlemas), let's do this! ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

2018 Magnificat Advent Companion App Giveaway!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of the year once again! The awesome folks at Magnificat Magazine have sent me 2 iOS and 2 Android Advent companion apps to give away to the lovely readers of this blog! That's the app, not the physical booklet.

No, I don't get paid for any of this and, no, I don't gain anything out of this. This is simply a giveaway for you faithful readers.

Normally, I'd use Rafflecopter for these giveaways but there was some shady business that happened last time I used them so we're going to do this a bit old school.

Here are the instructions:

  1. To enter, leave me a comment on this blog (with a way to contact you if you win), send me a tweet (@MelissaCeciliaG), or leave me a comment on the blog's FB page.
  2. You can enter once a day from now until November 30th at 8 a.m. PT.
  3. If you want additional entries, tweet the link to this giveaway (and be sure to include me -- @MelissaCeciliaG -- so I can see the tweet) or share the link from the blog's FB page onto your page (make sure the privacy setting for the shared link is public). I'll give you two additional entries per day (per social media platform) if you do this. That's 4 more entries per day if you share them on both.

That's it.

I'll be putting all the entries in two little jars -- one for the iOS app entries and the other for the Android app entries -- and I'll randomly select the winner in the afternoon of November 30th. I'll even post a video of the process so you guys can see that I did it fair and square.

And, that's it for now. I have two blog posts coming up that aren't giveaway OR article related that I really want to share. I'll schedule those for next week so there's no post overload for y'all. It's been a while since I've shared anything of substance and there are two amazing things that have happened lately that have been too good not to share. 😉

I hope you're all having a lovely Thanksgiving Day weekend!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway by the 30th!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 😊