Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Favorite Charities

Charities and Tithing: How Do You Choose?
Trista @ Not a Minx
Amanda @ Worthy of Agape
...and YOU! Join us on Facebook!

I have to be honest with you all. I don’t financially donate 10% of my income. I have something called student loans that are oh-so-pesky that just never seem to go away. I decided in the long run that it is better to pay off my loans as quickly as possible (2 years! It will happen!), which will free me up financially to be able to save up more for the big things in life as well as be more giving with my charitable contributions. So, until then, I am very much a proponent of the Time, Talent, and Treasure tithing, and so I try to “donate” my time and talents in whatever way I can, whether it is playing the flute with the community band or helping to lead a high school retreat.

But, as my loans will be paid off in the not too distant future, I have been on the lookout for some new charities to support financially. It’s important to me that the charity is Catholic friendly – they do not have to be Catholic, but I will not financially support an organization that blatantly contradicts the Catholic faith. It’s also important to me that the charity is using my money wisely. I’ve found that Charity Navigator is a pretty good resource for finding out how an organization spends its money, but you still have to use your best judgment, especially for smaller charities which will have to spend more money on fundraising and administrative costs.

Here's where I've been sending my charitable contributions lately...

Dawid! Doesn't he have the cutest smile?
Connected in Hope – This is my latest find. I was introduced to them via Camp Patton and fell in love with not only their gorgeous scarves but their mission behind them. They provide holistic services to families in one of the poorest areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They offer a weaving and sewing program for 70 widows, women with HIV and other vulnerable women in the community, allowing them to generate the income needed to lift their families from extreme poverty. The gorgeous scarves (and now jewelry!) are hand-made by the women, and every penny from the sales is re-invested back into their programs to benefit the women and their families. They opened up a Montessori preschool that now serves 51 children, and they provide the kiddos with education, healthy snacks during the day, basic health care, uniforms, and social work services. I recently started sponsoring a little boy, Dawid, and I love getting updates and pictures on how he is doing. They still need sponsors for a few more children, so head on over here to find out more information.

FOCUS – College can be a trying time emotionally, physically, and spiritually. FOCUS is a great organization that sends teams out to college campuses to engage the students and encourage them to grow in their Catholic faith. I have experienced first-hand the impact that FOCUS missionaries can have on the lives of college students, and so I know how important this ministry is. While I have yet to support a missionary directly, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about doing once my loans are paid off.

GW Newman Center – The Newman Center was where my faith life was set on fire when I was in graduate school, and it’s important to me to support them financially so they can keep providing activities, fellowship, and free food for every student that walks through their doors. Consider supporting your alma mater’s Catholic student center, or even the Catholic student center in your town, either financially or by volunteering your time.

Catholic Answers Live – I came across Catholic Answers Live podcast many years ago and fell in love. I have learned so much about the Catholic faith from their ministry, and have been a Radio Club member for a couple of years now. My favorite shows are the Q&A open forums for non-Catholics, but they cover a wide range of topics that are always so interesting. You can check out their show live from 6-8pm EST on your local Catholic radio station, or check out the podcast here.

What are your favorite charities to support? Be sure to link up with us over at the Facebook page!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vacation Reads - What's in Your Stack?

Next week, my sister and I take off for our vacation - literally taking off as we fly across the pond to England!

I studied abroad in London more years ago than I would like to admit, and I am so excited to be going back and sharing that experience with my sister.

We've been spending the last few months planning and buying plane tickets and rail passes and booking hotels and picking what sites we have to see, and now that we have everything in order, the most important part of preparing for our vacation can take place... finding some great vacation reads!

Because a picture of books must look sort of vintage-y, right?
I spent lots of time trying to find some good reads for our long plane trips and hours spent on the train. I found all of these books at the thrift store or used book stores, so I didn't spend too much money on this little stack!

Help a girl out... which one should I start reading first?

...from top to bottom*

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - I enjoyed the thrill of reading Gone Girl (even though I wasn't a fan of the ending), so I am looking forward to another fast paced psychological mystery.

Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin, SJ - I've read a few of Fr. Jim's books, and I love his approachable faith and writing style, so I am looking forward to some laughs while soaking up some spiritual reading.

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike - I found this on the bookshelf at the used book store and knew I had to get it. A prequel to Hamlet?! This has to be interesting, and will help immerse me in my favorite English town - Stratford!

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett - Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors (hello - read Bel Canto... just read it. Now.) and I've never read something from her that didn't completely suck me in... so I'm hoping this one continues the trend and presents an engrossing read!

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - This book has been on my reading list for awhile, so when I saw it at the used book store, I snatched it right up! Hopefully it doesn't disappoint!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - This is the latest from another one of my favorite authors. I love the mystery and history of each of her tales.

What's in your stack of vacation reads? Share, share, share! Inquiring minds want to know!

*Links are through Amazon Smile. Please pick your favorite charity and use Amazon Smile when you shop!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Come Home

An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church:
We want to invite you to come talk with us, and we are excited to meet you! Just like you, we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers; students, professionals, and stay-at-home moms. We are teenagers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and beyond. We are from many walks of life and from diverse backgrounds, but we share a common faith - one we want to invite you to revisit.
Some of us have been away from the Church, and by one way or another we've come back. Some of us never left - but that doesn't mean we’ve never questioned nor been confused. Some of us were raised outside of the Church, and made the decision to join as adults. In one way or another, each one of us has come to know and love Christ in the Catholic Church - and in keeping with Pope Francis’ request we want to share that love and joy with you.

Being Catholic isn’t easy, and we’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect; we have many planks in our own eyes to worry about. Our faith embraces paradoxes, challenges our culture's values, and makes us feel uncomfortable when we are called to examine our actions and our motivations. But - as you already know - just because something is challenging does not mean it is not worthwhile.

We know that you are intelligent and capable. We believe that you deserve answers to your questions, and explanations for the teachings with which you're struggling. We’ve all struggled with various aspects of our faith, but we aren’t here to judge or condemn you. We simply want to listen to what you’re feeling. We want to understand what is making you uncertain about being part of our Catholic faith. We want to help you find the answers and explanations that helped bring us home. We want to meet you, we want to hear about your experience, and most importantly, we want to invite you back.

Feel free to email any of us with questions or concerns you may have about the Church, her teachings, or what reversion means. If you’re not ready to bare your soul to complete strangers, we’d love to direct you to sites that helped us (and still help us) as we discerned our calling in life.
Wherever you are, whatever you believe, know that we are praying for you. You are our sister - another woman navigating a challenging world. We look forward to talking with you!
In The Peace and Love of Christ,

The members of #Cathsorority

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Corner with a View

This view may not seem like much, but it is my source of sunlight during the day.

My office is four white walls covered with print-outs of patents, a colorful periodic table, and funny pages from a cat calendar. The only window in my office is from Microsoft; I don't get a glass window with a view of what is outside my four white walls for at least a couple of years.

Just outside my door, in the corner at the end of the hall, is a large window that lets the sun stream in. It gives me a glimpse of the outside world when my eyes need a break from starting at a computer screen; when my mind needs a break from thinking. I watch cars attempt to parallel park; I watch people walk down the street on their way to grab a coffee; and, every once in awhile, I watch moms with their little kids carrying backpacks that are way too big for their little frames.

In this view is the building where I spent the first four months of my job in training; the 7-11 where I used to go grab Slurpees during the hot summer days; the sushi restaurant around the corner that serves delicious lunch buffet.

I've heard that this view has changed over the years as more buildings go up and the street gets busier. In the distance, you can see the cars driving on the beltway. In the air, you can see planes taking off and landing over the water. In the winter, you see snow; in the spring and fall, rain; in the summer, heat radiating off the pavement. 

My corner with a view changes every time I walk by; and yet it stays the same.

Linking up with Julie!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to Be the Best Godparent

This post was originally written for and published on The Mirror Magazine... head over there to join in on the conversation! Thank you ladies of The Mirror Mag for hosting me!

~ * ~

Close from a young age!
I was holding Robert, my youngest baby cousin, for the first time when my aunt and uncle asked me to be his godmother.

Of course I said yes!

Robert responded by spitting up all over my shirt.

Apparently he agreed with his parents' choice... I had been chosen. 

That was almost 9 years ago, and at the time, I didn't realize what an important role I was taking on. It wasn't until a few years later, when I started to grow deeper into my Catholic faith, that I realized what a big deal it is to be someone's godmother.

Think about it for a minute.

During the Rite of Baptism, the priest (or deacon) asks the godparents:
Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?
We respond (hopefully) with "We do."

The priest later says:
Dear parents and godparents: You have come here to present this child for baptism. By water and the Holy Spirit he (she) is to receive the gift of new life from God, who is love. 
On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart. 
If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.
... and later after the lighting of the Baptismal candle:
Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
Help the parents. Constant care. Responsibility. Entrusted to you.

The faith and soul of a little child of God is entrusted to you!

Thankfully, as Robert has grown, I've learned more about what it really means to be a godparent. Here are some of the top things I've discovered:

Make your own spiritual life a priority

Your number one job as a godparent is to be a role model in the faith for your godchild, and you can't do that unless you make your faith life a top priority. This means you have to walk the walk and talk the talk. If you are going to be encouraging your godchild to attend Mass, you better be attending Mass too. If you're going to help teach your godchild to pray the rosary, he better see you with a rosary in your hand from time to time. Especially when your godchild is young, him seeing you living the faith leaves a huge impression that will last the rest of his life.

Live your faith life fruitfully

The Rite of Baptism also includes a prayer to "Make the lives of his (her) parents and godparents examples of faith to inspire this child."

While making your own spiritual life a priority is good, you have to be sure that you are living that faith life fruitfully. If your godchild sees you going to Mass, but hating it, then that doesn’t leave a very good impression on his young and impressionable heart. It's important that your godchild sees you living a life of faith because you want to, not because you have to. Remember that the fruits you bear from your faith life no longer benefit only your soul, but also the soul of the child you promised to help raise in the faith.

Be present both physically and spiritually

Robert's First Communion!
Spending time with your godchild helps build trust so that if there ever comes a day when he needs advice or has questions about the faith, he feels comfortable coming to talk to you. I was lucky enough during college to spend a summer living down the street from my godson. I wouldn't trade that summer for anything, because even though he was young, the time we spent together helped build our relationship.

Sadly, after college, I moved hundreds of miles away from my godson. While it's more difficult to be physically present, I make a point to be there for him for the "big" life events. I even made a special trip to be there with him for his First Communion, and he was so excited to have me there.

Since I can't be physically present as often as I would like, I make special effort to be spiritually present as well. One way that I do this is to send my godson little "I love you" notes and gifts in the mail from time to time - prayer cards, saint medals, etc. He knows then that I am thinking about him, even though I am far away.

And on that note...

Give good gifts

I know... I went from giving spiritual advice to talking about presents, but stay with me here! Gifts can say a lot, especially to a child, and they can also be a great way to introduce your godchild to different aspects of the faith at a very young age.

For me, I've made a point to make sure that every gift I give Robert includes something Catholic... but I also work hard to find good Catholic gifts. Nothing is more boring to an 8 year old boy than an old lady prayer manual, for example, so it's important to find things that your godchild will be excited about. For his First Communion, I bought him a comic book Bible. When he opened it up, he exclaimed with his hands in the air, "A COMIC BOOK BIBLE?!?! FINALLY A BETTER BIBLE HAS BEEN MADE!!!!"

As he grows older, he will outgrow clothes and toys, but hopefully he will never grow out of the excitement he has for being Catholic.

Pray for your godchild...

Pray for his daily life. Pray for any struggles or fears he shares with you, even if they seem trivial. Pray for your relationship with your godchild. Pray for his future vocation. Pray for his faith to continue to grow, and for him to grow in love for Christ and the Eucharist. Prayers go a long way!

...and ask your godchild to pray for you.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” I honestly believe that nothing is as strong as the prayers of a child. How could Jesus and Mary ignore the heartfelt pleas of a young heart?! So ask your godchild to pray for you and your intentions. I recently asked my godson to pray for a special intention for me every night before he goes to bed, and I trust that someday I will see so many fruits thanks to him joining my prayer army. Even more, asking your godchild to pray for you also encourages him to make prayer a part of his daily routine, which will subtly help him grow to have an active prayer life.


Not only have I learned that being a godparent is a big deal, but I've found even more that being a godparent is hilariously fun, rewarding, helpful at fostering my own faith growth, and a great learning experience for passing on the faith to our youth.

Are you blessed to be a godparent? What are some of the greatest things you've learned along the way?

Teaching him how to drive at the ripe old age of 7!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One Word

When I was begging people for blog post ideas, one person suggested that I tell you all about a normal day in my life. Or what I'm thinking for Lent. Or my must-have food item.

What a surprise it was to me when I realized that all three of those ideas can be summed up into one post... nay, into one word.


You all are probably like - whaaaaaaaaat?! - but really. Chocolate is the answer to all of those.

A normal day in my life...  I said yesterday that if I wrote about my typical day, you all would be put to sleep. But I left one thing out of my monotonous typical day, and that is the fact that every day I am asking someone(s) somewhere(s) for chocolate. No one is safe from being asked the "Do you have any chocolate...?!?!?" question. No one. Not even my boss. There are even rumors that certain person(s) can tell that I am going to ask for chocolate just by looking at my facial expression. 

And if that person has the chocolate which my heart so lovingly desires...

Survival mode!

...and if there is no chocolate to be found...


What I'm thinking for Lent... So, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that like last year, I am once again giving up chocolate for Lent, among some other things I have yet to decide to add/subtract from my daily life. I've actually done this for a couple of years now, and I've survived. Barely. The first couple of weeks are the hardest. Then the next few are spent dreaming of Anthony Thomas chocolate bunnies. And by then, it's Holy Week so I just offer it up because we're so close to getting my chocolate back the celebration of Jesus' resurrection! In truth, giving up chocolate helps me work on the always elusive virtue of self-control/temperance while also giving me an opportunity to offer it up for some real life actual prayer needs as opposed to my insane chocolate cravings.

So, on Mardi Gras, you can bet that this will be me...

Squirrel! (see what I did there?!)

And then me the next day...

My must-have food item... I mean, is the answer not chocolate for some person in the world? I just don't understand how it could be something other than chocolate. Ever. I bake with it. I have it for breakfast. I melt it in my warm milk. I would use it as a condiment if I could. It is its own food group, as it should be.

So, I'm curious. If someone asked you to write about those three things, would you be able to sum it all up with one word?

I can sum it up in three.

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