Bright Maidens: Snow and Pastures

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Topic: “The Parable of the Lost Sheep.”
Elizabeth at Startling the Day
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If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?  

One winter when I was ten, my siblings and I were playing in the snow. Our littlest brother, not even a year old, was bundled up tightly, snug and secure in a sled.  He was a cute, wee little thing, and I had the genius idea of dumping a shovel of snow on his head.

I wish I could tell you exactly why I did it.  Did I not realize it might hurt him?  That the shock of a face full of snow would make him cry?  Was I still tinged with jealousy at the attention he received?  I can’t remember.

He began to cry and my mother turned from where she was playing with my sisters and brother.  Her mouth dropped open, and I saw something flash across her face.  “Trista!  Did you…?” she asked. 

Last winter

Suddenly ashamed and fearful, I bolted out of our yard.  I heard her call for me as I struggled through the piles of snow (there had been a blizzard), and I startled with fear when I noticed she was running after me.


The next half hour was a blur as I crouched behind cars, hid in bushes, and looped the block, hoping she would stop following me.  


All the while, my mom continued to call my name.


Finally, with tears and a runny nose, I let her catch me.  “I’m sorry,” I blubbered, crying into her puffy jacket.


“I know,” she replied, hugging me.  “C’mon, let’s go back to the house.  It’s cold out here.”


My mother is obviously not God, but in this instance she mirrored His Divine Love.  I had done something stupid and hurtful; I, like the lost sheep, had wandered from the path.  My mother never stopped chasing me, wanting to forgive me and bring me home.  Likewise, God desires the same thing for all His children: that they be safe and at peace, with Him.  How often do we not turn to Him or stop and listen to Him calling because we are fearful or anxious?  

This Advent, I pray we all pause.  Let Him catch us and bring us home again. 

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
“The Lord revealed at what cost these green pastures are purchased.  He was not the Good Shepherd because He Provided economic plenty, but because He would lay down His life for His sheep.  Once again the Cross appears under the symbol of the shepherd.  The shepherd-patriarch Jacob and the shepherd-kind David now pass into the Shepherd-Savior, as the staff becomes a crook, the crook a scepter, and the scepter a Cross.”  
Life of Christ by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Dante Had Virgil; My Brother Has…Me?

My post Dante Had Virgil; My Brother Has…Me? is up over at VirtuousPla.Net!  Please check it out!  I’m asking for suggestions for Confirmation sponors!
“The requirements for sponsors are pretty simple.  According to the General Introduction of the Rite of Christian Initiation, paragraphs 8 – 10, one must be:

 

Dante and Virgil
  • at least sixteen years old and
  • baptized and confirmed and received the Eucharist
  • living an upright life
  • No penalties (e.g., left the Church, etc.). Therefore, a Catholic who has left the Catholic Church cannot be a sponsor, and cannot be a “Christian witness” if they join another Christian communion.
Although I fit all these requirements, I know I must seriously conform to “living an upright life.”  If I’m to lead my brother in the next stages of choosing the Church for himself, I need to be a worthy guide.  Dante had Virgil; my brother has…me?  Gulp!” 

She reigns

Feminine Genius: The Interior
“She reigns” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

The original Bright Maidens chose this topic to follow last month’s topic (Feminine Genius: The Dress) because of the unexpected blow-up in [uncharitable] comments on Julie’s blog post. We happen to think some of those who commented were misunderstanding her post’s objective, but in an effort to “listen first to understand, then to be understood,” we want to explain our full understanding of the Feminine Genius.

“You ain’t all that, honey, and all the dresses in the world aren’t going to fix what’s wrong with you.” 
-Anonymous Commenter 2

I still laugh when I reread the comments on Julie’s last Bright Maidens post. This offending concluding sentence came at the end of a ramble about good tailoring, an insult to Julie’s friend’s wardrobe choice, and more random explanations about what makes a woman look her best.

Our Patron

The consensus is this commenter was a female. Comments like the above quote prove that she missed the boat on how to make a woman appear in the best light, ie, not eternally insulting and provocative.

We’re all called to serve in Christ’s mission. Our mission is to serve for His mission.

Some have God-given musical talents or use humor to serve Him, while others must assume a role through sportsmanship or writing. We use what He gave us, including the gifts of our femininity and masculinity, depending on our sex. The roles of men and women are simply different, not one better or worse than the other.

One major hang up for non-Catholic onlookers (and for some within the Church), is the concept of the woman in the body of the Church. I’ve heard the lament many times that the Church doesn’t treat women well, the stand out reasoning stemming from the ordination of male-only priests.

Have they forgotten our reverence for the Holy Mother of God? Have they forgotten that we refer to the Church as a female body?

Christ died for the Church, just as men “die” (either literally or figuratively) for those they are called to protect. This doesn’t mean a man is greater just because he is the same sex as Jesus. It means we have different roles with different service opportunities.

As Bl. John Paul II once wrote, God entrusts people to each and every other person. However, the woman is entrusted with the ability to bear human beings “precisely by reason of their femininity” in a special way.

He went on to explain that the “feminine genius” is the effect of the strength drawn from this awareness and this entrusting. It has been this way since the beginning of time, throughout the Old Testament, especially during the Annunciation, and continues today.

“A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God ‘entrusts the human being to her’, always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them ‘strong’ and strengthens their vocation.” -Bl. John Paul II, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year”

The genius of femininity does not take away from the masculine genius anymore than the masculine genius strips power from the feminine genius. The two work in tandem, ideally filling the roles we human beings can possibly fill on Earth. The power is God’s.

Let’s look at the feminine genius of three very different women in my life: My mother, my confirmation sponsor, and my cousin.

For more by Elaine Golden, visit her site!

My mother utilized the gift of her fertility to bring three daughters into the world, furthering her own genius as well as bringing more of it to light! She constantly serves us, especially in her sacrifice with her job, which she has held for more than twenty years.

Her avocation was to provide for her family and she sacrificed some of her career happiness for us in that regard. On top of that, she offers each of us tailored emotional support and counsel.

My confirmation sponsor has been a family friend and true role model for me all of my life. My sisters and I are her spiritually adopted children, whom she serves with deep love and devotion, for whatever purpose we may need.

This woman is the one who cleans up the table when she’s a guest at your house, but will wrestle you to the ground to prevent you from doing the same at her house. She is a humble servant of God through the sacrifices she makes for others.

My cousin is only a few weeks younger than me and, likewise, is unmarried. When my grandmother died in April, she was at the starting gate with a tray of sandwich meats in one hand and a hug waiting on the other arm.

She didn’t share blood with my grandmother, but she had grown up with her always present at family events. Her selflessness, helpfulness, sacrifice, and servitude for us during that grieving period was poignantly impressive and a true show of her love for God through us.

As I mentioned in my “Month of the Dress” post, it doesn’t matter how feminine we look, whether or not we have borne children, or how good we look doing it. Our “dress” is our service.

It’s the consolation of a friend in a time when words won’t do the trick. It’s the casserole we made when our co-worker loses a family member. It’s the laughter we share in with those we love.

It’s the glance we posses as we look at the man we love in a way that communicates to him how important he is to our life. It’s the softness of our skin when we sit in a nursing home, 40 years beyond the hustle of motherhood.

Through Mary’s example, let us pray that we women gain the strength to recognize that which God has entrusted in us.

“For her, ‘to reign’ is to serve! Her service is ‘to reign’!” – Bl. John Paul II about Our Mother Mary in Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women.

Instead of a Bright Maidens post…

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, Irene the Mean has prevented our Trista from accessing consistent Internet so we’re postponing until next Tuesday.

As a lame replacement… I would like to introduce you to a wonderful young lady, Dylana. I’ve mentioned her before and I’ll mention her again. Check her out at her blog, “The Pilgrim’s Paean.”

Yesterday, she posted a few questions to gather information to help her prepare for her upcoming confirmation:

Well, this blog has mostly been about myself and my spiritual journey. But I have a question for you all. Well a few… haha! Here it goes:
1) What books have played a key role in your journey?
2) What about the books that have aided your discernment?
3) How should I prepare for my upcoming Confirmation? (Oh! P.S.-I might be confirming early!! Schyeah!)
4) How have you disciplined yourself to grow in holiness?
5) What penances have you employed?

Before I share my answers, please enjoy Julie’s:

1 & 2) Flannery O’Connor’s letters; The Imitation of Christ by St. Thomas a Kempis, Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers, Free to Love by Marcel LeJuene, The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, Introduction to Christianity by Pope Benedict XVI, In Soft Garments by Ronald Knox, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot, and Church Fathers (i.e. Confessions by Augustine)… to start 🙂
3) Discipline yourself in prayer- the Devil will attack and try to separate us from our Lord through hardship, spiritual dryness and other wiles.
4) Charity in all circumstances; constant prayer and petition; reading Scripture; frequent use of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Reconciliation
5) Holding my tongue when I am being wronged, especially if I have already made my defense.

My answers:

Source

1) Hands down, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

2) Fantastic question! I think blogs have had a bigger impact on my discernment because they’re short and always there for me to read. Pray, read, pray.

3) Schyeah! Write hand-written letters to important people in your life and tell them how they have impacted you. They don’t have to be Catholic or even Christian. You never know what effect your words of praise and gratitude can have on someone’s spirituality. Also, ditto to Julie!

4) I’ve surrounded myself with good, holy people and I try to learn from them at all times. Of course, I’m friends with people of all walks of spiritual life and I suppose being around them motivates me to employ that which I learn. All of my friends and family teach me, everyday.

5) Good one, Julie!! I have to agree. One of my biggest faults is the NEED to be right or “justified.” When I remember…. I try to keep my mouth shut and just realize that there is no reason for me to fight. It doesn’t always work (can I get an Amen, family?)

Mary’s vapor rub

Mary, Our Guide
“Mary’s vapor rub” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

I picture Mary in heaven cleaning up toys, dislodging tiny G.I. Joes from the toughening pad of her foot, slowly acquiring a nursing/psych/spiritual guide degree, with stretch marks to match her under eye circles, like mothers around the world. If I could pick anyone to give me vapor rub for my soul, it would be her.

The world is the toy room, bruises, scrapes, and boo-boos show up on her children’s souls, and her children around the world cry to her at night, stirring her awake.

Her soul magnifies the Lord for centuries so that He can reach more people who notice her motherly influence on their lives.  She is our mother, our comforter, and God’s message deliverer.

The house in which I grew up loved her everyday. I knew the Hail Mary prayer as well as the Our Father, we had several pictures, rosaries, and one statue of her in the “fancy room.” My parents needed her guidance in their lives, so they were happy to invite her into their homes.

When I was young, we went on a trip to Emmitsburg, MD, a small town where people said they saw Mary. I remember aiming the film camera at every corner of the house and grounds where she had allegedly appeared, praying that she might appear in the photo after development.

(I don’t own the rights)

I don’t know if that sighting has been made “official” by the Vatican, but the faith of my childhood was overwhelmed by the beauty of the possibility that I might see this woman I had called Mother throughout my life.

Shortly after that trip, when I was in fourth grade, I woke up one morning with a white pain in my right hip. I rolled off the bed, onto the floor and quickly learned I couldn’t stand up because of the pain.

It was as if I had not awoken and I was in a dream wherein I could try with all of my dream-like strength, but the body to which I was tethered could not move.

Fear overwhelmed me and heaving tears came down my face as I crawled into the bustle of the hallway where I knew my parents would notice their first born daughter, scared and in pain.

With their help, thanks be to the Lord, I could stand and walk with the pain still searing in my hip. Doctors did tests, people prayed, I repeated my own name during the prayers for intercessions at Mass, and I watched my parents whisper with worry.

They thought it was Rheumatoid Arthritis and that I would be in a wheelchair by the age of sixteen.

The morning that we were to get the test results from the doctor, my mom rushed in my room with damp cheeks and an encouraged voice and clasped around my neck her mother’s Mary metal on a silver chain. She said Mary came to her in a dream and told her it would be good news from the doctor and not to be afraid.

For the first time in days, her head was actively floating above water. Mary, whether it was her or just the comfort that my mom knew she could find in her image, provided my mother with peace of mind. She rubbed the vapor jelly on her soul, reminding her that she was not alone.

(I don’t own the rights)

The renewing dream was correct and the doctors concluded that I had contracted streptococcus in my hip joint. I needed some antibiotics and a few weeks for the pain to subside.

I doubt I knew how serious that episode could have been; I was excited to miss school for that appointment.

Mary provided my mother with the magnifying reminder that anxiety is the opposite of grace. The episode awoke the faith in my parents and my sisters and I grew and learned from it.

The comfort and wisdom that Mary used to assure Jesus that it was time for his first miracle guides us today. Because we know she lived life as a mother, she lost like a mother, and Jesus declared her our mother while on the cross, she leads us to a path to Him when we need it.

Cut to the Chaste

Week Six: Sex Before Marriage

“Cut to the Chaste” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the sixth post of a blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

The Big Rule: no sex before marriage. It’s a concept that seems pretty simple when you forget that rules are often useless to the flawed human race without reasoning and understanding supporting them.

(I don’t own the rights)

My mom “conditioned” my sisters and me from the tender age of three to follow this big abstinence rule. As I mentioned in my review of Jason and Crystalina’s newest book, my mom sat her daughters in front of the 1954 musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and drove home the point that men and women sleep separately until they get married.

I intend to buy the Blu-ray version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and convert it to hologramray or whatever technology comes next until I have my own children. Learning that men and women sleep separately until marriage when I was still eating glue and drawing incomprehensible crayon artwork on the floor was immeasurably helpful in my life.

This is especially accurate considering life outside of my home tried to make fun of the values that my parents instilled. The TVs played music when the characters finally got together, suggesting there was actual magic shooting back and forth between those kisses. Now we harbor little doubt that the next step these characters take will lead to the bedroom.

The commercials started to use innuendo and now we have public displays of American embarrassment in shows like Teen Mom and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

My mother got to me early and drove home the Big Rule before the media had a chance to get me, but it was really my peers I had to worry about. The media plague got to many of my classmates before it affected me (thanks mom and dad, for banning shows like “The Simpsons”).  These peers’ influence, sarcasm, and general attitude about topics such as sex and romantic love started acting like a marinade on me.

Society’s lessons about how to be “normal” finally got to me and all of the champion avoidance efforts I could muster were no match for an attack from all sides.

Happily, my parents used anatomical names instead of cutesy names, they were always available to talk, unembarrassed, and transparent when we had questions. We had comfortable talks about sex instead of ones that made you want to crawl into a ball and be absorbed by the carpet.

The supposedly liberated media can’t claim to be unembarrassed like my parents. Movies or TV shows with any sexual innuendo carry a hint of embarrassment, wrongdoing, or “shoulda, woulda, coulda” when the sexual relationship doesn’t pan out as the characters anticipate.

You knew I had to add Grey’s Anatomy (I don’t own rights)

What is missing? Where is the freedom?

I was brought up to mutter commentary like, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have had sex,” whenever the characters broke down in tears after a break up. I followed the rule to a T. No sex until marriage, at all costs.

Then came high school where my friends and classmates started drinking and having sex, making me feel like I was far better than most and that I didn’t want to judge these people for their decisions.

My solution was to continue my non-drinking, non-sexual ways and decide that my decision was my decision alone. It mattered not what they did — sometimes this attitude led to my encouragement of behavior I would never consider, softening my perception of the wrongs I was opposed to my entire life.

Then came college and the “normal” college lifestyle I knew so well from the movies and TV shows. The fun happens at parties: the end. Therefore, go to parties and do fun things like drink, flirt with the opposite sex, and make-out with complete strangers while the smell of Natty Light and Axe hangs in the air.

Cut to the Chaste

The mantra went: I wasn’t having sex, my outfits were classier than those girls, I wasn’t getting wasted every weekend, and I only had the stranger encounters a few times.

But was I still the three-year-old sitting Indian style in front of the musicals and wholesome movies I would watch as a child? The “bloom” had been rubbed off because I was advancing away from that simple, innocent life, edging as close as possible to sin, and treading through Sin Candyland “for fun.”

I started dating and with that comes smooching.

It’s risky to think we can go at full speed in a passionate make out session with petting and expect to put on the breaks every time. In fact, it’s just plain mean to yourself and to your partner to get hot and heavy with the expectation that you’re going to stop before sex “happens.”

Sex doesn’t just happen, choices are made and then adults consent (except in the obvious cases of rape). One of these choice checkpoint is kissing and it’s up to the individual to know when we start to lie to our body saying, “Hey, we’re going to have sex with this person before we get off the couch,” when we have no intention to advance that far.

Sexuality isn’t one size fits all. Sex isn’t dirty or evil either. It’s supposed to be a beautiful foreshadowing of the union with God in heaven.

(I don’t own the rights)

God is supposed to be involved, much like He is supposed to be involved in relationships leading to marriage and involved in the marriage itself. Sacrament is the key word we’re searching for.

We can blame society until our faces turn blue because it pushes a subtle (and not-so-subtle) agenda on us. However, I don’t think we can be satisfied with this one Big Rule.

We need to understand why we’re choosing differently than the characters in Friends. We need to understand why making out with everything with a heartbeat devalues our perception of what should be a tender moment. We need to date with purpose instead of treating the people of the opposite sex as truck stops on the way to the destination.

Ladies, we need to know we’re dressing modestly so we know that the men in our lives are there because they see something revealed within us instead of something revealed by our blouses. Gentlemen, you need to know you’re half of the equation and your conviction needs to be steadfast and consistent, even if you’re dating someone with a less than pure past.

Chastity means learning and respecting all of the reasons we were created. Love your spouse before you meet them and prevent yourself from making the mistakes that don’t easily leave your memory.

I’ve written letters to my future husband at many points in my transition back to chastity. They explain that I already love him and that I’m excited to share the fruits of my chaste labors in our marriage. I think these fruits will show themselves in our relationship before marriage, on our wedding night, and in our public married life.

A fruit basket from Me, to Me, stocked by God. I bet it tastes like freedom.

Christian Commitophobia

Week Three: Dating

“Christian Commitophobia” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the third post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

“So you’re an actively dating commitophobe who desperately wants to find Mr. Right?”

A friend recently summed up how the world categorizes my dating style. My answer to him at the time was a laugh and a “yes, you got it.” But really, the answer is more complicated than that and the end result is: commitophobia isn’t always a bad thing.

Break it down:

*Actively dating: yes. I’m getting to know men.

Your mom told you friendship should come first and I think she was right. You know how easy it is to be friends with someone with whom you really connect? Why deprive yourself of the same ease with a significant other? I am getting to know men as friends and taking it no faster than that, for the time being.

*Commitophobe: that’s how the world sees me. I have dated several men over the years and I’ve gotten serious with one of them.

My 24th birthday is tomorrow. This makes me either a late bloomer (first date: age 15 — pretty early), a weirdo (this is entirely possible, but what would that make you, dear reader?), in a place without a sufficient supply of men (that is not the case for anyone when online dating has graduated to non-sketchiness, for the most part) or a commitophobe.

*Desperately: No. Not desperately. Ouch. If I was desperately searching for Mr. Right, I think I would have found Mr. Okay Enough and married him by now.

Desperation, in this case, would cloud my mind and make me settle because the desperation would be less about finding the right person and more about hunkering down into the idea of marriage.

*Wants to find Mr. Right: check. If God is calling me to marriage, I feel prepared to meet the man I will marry. If He’s not calling me to marriage, this post is still a pillar of what I believe about the subject of dating.

I want to be like them

In my teen years and in most of my college years, I felt the ache for the “kind of” companionship I witnessed in couples around me. I liked the idea of holding hands with a nice, cute boy and telling him about my day like the “other girls” did.

To have a male confidant who would be romantic and wait outside of school at the ending bell, leaning against the hood of his car, hand-picked long-stem roses in hand with a poem memorized for recitation… would be divine.

How dreamy this boy would be. He would treat me well, make me laugh, understand my cryptic humor, get along with my family, and respect my boundaries. Finally, the girls at my school would see that someone found me desirable and worthy enough to call me “girlfriend.”

Insecurities like this feed like a parasite on most teenage girls. I’m so grateful to have my parents, for without the motivation to remain true to myself, I could have taken that crazy thought train into a premarital, sexual relationship with the first squeaky-voiced, teen guy who would show me any of the affection I craved.

To clarify, I was quite invisible in high school and was especially so in the minds of the the all-boys’ brother school down the street. I was invisible, but I still emitted a non-silly air.

Being invisible erases the chance of pursuit by some disrespectful guy, but my demeanor prevented it, as well. A foundation of confidence supported me, though it was hidden under many layers of these insecurities, so the threat of losing myself never followed through.

Daddy

Naptime with Daddy

My hero, my Daddy, gets to take a lot of the credit for this. He was and is a spectacular part of my life and has built up quite an example of manhood. Any prospects, past or future, tend to pale in comparison.

I dated a few men in college and beyond but I often put the breaks on the momentum of the relationship, hence commitophobe. Of course, this has been an effort to avoid pain but also to avoid dating for the sake of dating.

My father’s fervent devotion to our relationship and his relationships with my mother and my sisters prevents me from settling. In fact, he has made finding the right guy nearly impossible because of his example and ability to make me double over in laughter. He’s ruined it for lots of men.

Why would I date someone when I can see he doesn’t value the foundations that support my father’s strong points?

Yes, as my friend from the beginning of the post pointed out to me, it takes a long time to get to know someone. This doesn’t mean we launch into an emotional and physical relationship with everyone who shows interest in us.

When we approach dating as a way to get to know someone instead of a mid-life circus act to convince someone to like us, we can reach a level of comfort.

Taking this path allows both parties to “interview” the other in the same way they learn about other friends. If it turns out that there is something missing between you, at least you haven’t fumbled through a physical relationship before its too late to get out relatively unscathed.

Another friend once described the ideal relationship between a man and woman like a triangle. As a man and a woman work toward God at the top of the triangle, they’re also getting closer to each other.

Seeking to know God helps us grow closer to each other because of the Love that growing close to God fosters.

I have not always agreed with this. In fact, for a time I was pretty cavalier with giving away my kisses and entertaining the idea of dating men who didn’t hold value for the walk toward God.

When it came down to it, my deep-rooted “commitophobia” prevented me from ignoring my inner voices and slapping a “boyfriend” label on the relationship.

Now I believe skipping the step of getting to know someone before allowing a physical relationship to try to push it along is counter productive. Kissing is great fun  
because of the chemicals it releases and the bond it creates between two people.

I don’t want a bunch of chemicals clouding my mind in the early stage of knowing someone. My mind is cloudy enough. I’m a Christian Commiophobe.

Prepare now

It doesn’t take much to set off a teen, but if you wanted to ignite my temper in high school, all you had to do was put on an “Elizabeth’s Mom” mask and say the words, “It will happen when you least expect it.”

So many other nuggets of my mother’s advice have proven annoyingly true, so I’ve decided to trust that she’s right. In the meantime, I’m surrounding myself with a cushion of wonderful, beautiful friends.

My close friends are good, faithful people who help me walk closer to God with each step.

Keeping them around is narrowing my choices in dating even more because I will not be caught off guard or charmed when someone treats me with respect or agrees with my core beliefs. I have a whole pile of those friends at home. Those are now nonnegotiable traits.

This was one of the hardest posts to write and I think it’s because these are new conscious beliefs based on the subconscious beliefs I’ve held my entire life. I’ve always been a little afraid of getting to close to someone in a romantic relationship.

It has taken years of reflection, but I’m grateful for my commitophobia. I know I won’t settle; I know I will attempt to see every friendship and relationship as a journey to Christ and to becoming who I am.

“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” -Thomas Merton