Time to grow up

You know how sometimes you’re having a complete meltdown over something that seems absolutely critical to your future health, happiness, and overall well-being? There you are, staring out the living room window at the cold, dreary rain, thinking dark thoughts about the future without whatever it is and wondering how you will ever survive. You’re in the depths of despair, and you glower in black fury at your roommates when they walk innocently by and wish you “good morning.” Nothing interests you. Food loses its flavor. Life — what meaning does it hold now that That Thing is about to be taken from you?

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So I was having one of those days on Sunday. And I’m both relieved and embarrassed to admit that the answer to my woes was incredibly simple. It went something like this: Grow up.

I’m realizing with increasing regularity that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about how the events and people in my life affect me. Those that affect me most get the most attention. Those that affect me less can sit and simmer on the back burner, if I give them even that much thought. Why worry about other people’s lives, seems to be my semi-conscious mantra, when I have my own to worry about?

But when someone else’s life has a noticeable impact on mine, theI stand up and take notice.

This weekend a blip in someone else’s plans threw my own plans into a tailspin, and instead of reacting in genuine concern for that person, I had a fit because I wanted things to go my way. Granted, this other person would probably like for things to go my way, too. I’m not being completely selfish. But it wasn’t until the blip in their plans unsettled mine that I took this person’s long-standing intention to prayer with real fervor. Heretofore I’ve been comfortable with the more passive, “Please bless so-and-so in such-and-such situation.” But now my own dearest wishes were on the line, and my prayers were much more focused.

As a result, I’ve been taking a much deeper look at all my intentions and realizing how selfish I am…yes, even in prayer. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and it’s even pretty easy to tack names on to my daily rosary or Mass. But to really carry the people I care about to Our Lord and present all their needs to him and beg him to look on them in love and satisfy their deepest needs–needs that have nothing to do with me? I won’t say that’s hard, but it’s hard to remember. It’s hard to pull my selfish head out of my own goings-on long enough to focus on The Other.

It’s just so dratted easy to be selfish. And quite frankly, it’s childish. The child can center the whole universe on her own measly wants and needs, but the adult is supposed to know better. Not just outwardly — it’s one thing to volunteer at the homeless shelter, give your seat to old ladies on the metro, or let the person with two items get ahead of you in line at the grocery store. Those are good things, but they’re also external and therefore easier to see. What goes on inside is just as important.

Real Christian charity isn’t just an outside thing. It should be all-pervasive, all inclusive, and deeply selfless. I should have genuine concern for the people in my life in everything, not just the areas that impact me directly. So I was grateful, albeit a bit embarrassed, when a wise person listened to my tearful tale and chuckled and said, “You’ll be fine. But you should be worried about that other person.”

Ah, perspective. It’s still not all about me. Maybe some day I’ll learn that lesson for keeps.

– Mabel

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Profile in the Gap: Blanca Therese Morales

Profiles in the Gap
Blanca Therese Morales
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Blanca Therese Morales is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Check out her blog! Also, be on the lookout for her to appear in EWTN’s new series, “Extraordinary Faith.” She’ll be featured with some friends in an episode later this spring. 
I had always expected to be married by my early twenties. I knew many women who had married out of college, becoming stay-at-home moms in a nice little towns. It always seemed ideal.  However, God had other plans for me.
Since marriage was not to be had, I planned a glittering career in broadcast media. I saw myself living a glamorous life in either California or New York, rubbing elbows with celebrities, attending VIP events and feeling “free” of commitment or obligations.
But God got to me before any of this took place. He let me see that a life without Him would have no meaning, no purpose and no merit. I decided to offer my future plans to him, including marriage. From that point on, every decision had to include Him. I would live my life for Him.
As I offered up a career on TV, God offered me a better career alternative: writing. I had always liked creative writing but never saw myself working as a writer. God led me to news writing and photojournalism, where I learned to hone this skill through experience.
While I had never planned this for myself, God knew what He was doing. This new path helped me to grow so much as a person, and also as a Christian.
I now see that this season of singleness was a blessing in disguise. I have been able to do things I would not have been otherwise been able to do, had I done things according to my own plan. I have had the time to travel, go on pilgrimages, have a career I enjoy, attend retreats, and to learn and grow in so many ways.
God has humored me even further, by letting me go in front of the camera as I had originally planned, except this time the opportunity came not to give myself glory, but to speak about the things that give Him glory.

Profile No. 20: Arleen Spenceley

Profiles in the Gap

Arleen Spenceley

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Arleen Spenceley is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and author of a forthcoming book about love, chastity, and sex, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.

 

Did you expect this time of singleness? 

Ultimately, yes. In short spurts (mostly while getting to know guys I thought were good for me), I might have expected to be married, or engaged, or at least in a marriage-bound relationship by the time I turned 28. But if I put a lot of thought into how I’ve spent my 20s so far, that I am single today was pretty predictable. It was college first, and then grad school, and then the book I’m writing now. Since grad school, I’ve found myself saying “THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been,” and saying it with increasing intensity with every passing semester: “No, THIS is the busiest I’ve ever been – for real, this time.” That isn’t to say people can’t meet and love and marry each other while they’re busy, but that I didn’t go a lot of places where meeting a guy was likely. One semester, I worked 32 hours a week for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor, took one or two graduate level classes, and wrote a book proposal, while living, working, interning, and going to school in four different cities. It is solely the result of how awesome God is that I survived that, and for the best from a bunch of perspectives that I didn’t try to date on top of it.

If so, is it what you expected it to be? If not, what did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 

This season of my thus-far single life is not what I expected. It is way crazier and more fun and scary-in-a-good way than that.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 

I do find fulfillment, in part, in my career. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from theologian Frederick Buechner. It says, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” Writing is my passion, and there’s a lot of fulfillment found in getting to do that professionally, and in doing what I can to learn how to get better at it. What makes it better, though, is getting to merge it with the world’s greatest need. What I see as the world’s greatest need is an education in a better way to live, as modeled by Jesus, who makes living a different kind of life worth it.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 

There is a stigma attached to single life sometimes, as perpetuated by single people and by people who think everybody’s supposed to be married, and just as erroneously, that everybody’s supposed to be married by a certain age. My faith is the umbrella that covers everything in my life, which is why I’ve averted adoption of these attitudes. An old, viral article about early marriage I read once said marriage is a formative experience, in which spouses grow, and grow up. I think the article implied that people who don’t marry particularly young forego that growth, but I totally disagree. Every day is a formative experience. We’re all going to grow, no matter our states of life, if we’re willing.

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself?

For various seasons in my single life, I have challenged myself to go without stuff that previously had been staples for me. I called 2010 “My Sugar Free Year” because I gave up all food that had added sugar in it (with the exceptions of bread and condiments). I spent several years without Facebook or Twitter or texting. I probably will come up with a year-long challenge for 2014, but I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do or give up. I really, really, really like a challenge, especially if it requires asceticism. Voluntary self-denial is good practice for parts of life like work or marriage or parenthood, in which we have to put other people’s needs before our own. Plus following Jesus always requires self-denial, and this is kind of a way to improve my ability to do that.

If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?

I think I worry about fear itself more than I worry about failure. The part of the fear of failure that stops us from pursuing stuff isn’t the potential for failure, but the fear. I hope in my life to do a lot of what Harriet Lerner writes about in her book The Dance of Fear: “When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties are apt to worsen over time…. If you fear rejection, you may indeed need to accumulate more experience being snubbed.”

Profile No. 18: Claire

Profiles in the Gap
Claire
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Claire is an anonymous Catholic blogger in the UK. She blogs at Everything Is Grace. Follow her on Twitter, @CCGraceBlog.
Did you expect this time of singleness?
When I was a kid I had a lot of plans and expectations as to what would be happening in my life at the age of 25. I had envisaged a big beautiful house, a lovely husband and at least one bouncing baby on my knee… The actual picture of my life is vastly different from this. If you must know, I recently moved back in with my parents, I don’t drive, I don’t have any prospective boyfriends, and I work two part-time jobs in a city that takes me three hours traveling to and from everyday. This was all very unexpected. I may have had a little crisis moment before my 25th birthday where I thought, “Where have I gone wrong?” But I realise that I am probably the happiest I have ever been in my life. Nothing is perfect, nothing is the way I want it to be. But this is what God has made it, and it is the best thing ever.
What did you expect, and has the change been exciting or disappointing? 
I did not expect this time of singleness. I completely assumed that my life was going to go along the same path as everyone else I knew and looked up to. I am not going to lie and say that I am over the moon that I have not fulfilled my goals, but as a priest friend reminded me of this week, it’s not about my goals. My plan is not the plan, His plan. Jeremiah 29:11 is something I try to learn from on a daily basis. God does have a plan, and it could be similar or completely different to the plan teenage Claire had, but whatever it is, He will be executing it in His own time. Meanwhile, what’s happening right now is keeping me with a smile on my face. I am safe, warm, well-fed, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, surrounded by people I love, and growing into such a beautiful relationship with Christ.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career? If so, can you elaborate? If not, where do you seek / find it? 
Ahhh the career question. I work for two different charities – a non denominational pro-life charity and a Catholic charity. All things aside I love what I do. I love the people I work with and for. I love the potential of the places I work in, and what they could do in the future. I love being part of the journey. But I can honestly say this is just a moment in time for me. I dream of bigger and better things. I want to work with people. I want to own my own business. I want to make people happy. I want to bring people closer to Christ. Again, these are a lot of things I want! But it all depends on what He wants.
How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult? 
My faith essentially forms everything about me. I am a very optimistic person, and I believe that this optimism stems from a knowledge of the life God has built for me, and the promise of life with Him forever. I know that anything that goes wrong is not really the end of the world, and I know He looks after me. Having faith means I look at everything very differently — from what I eat, to what I do, who I hang out with, the situations I can get myself into…. down to random things like the charities I can support and the people I vote for. People look at faith as something restrictive, but I see it as something incredibly freeing. Having a life of faith has opened so many doors for me, created so many opportunities and made me who I am today. It definitely reassures me as a single woman. I look at my peers who don’t have faith, but who are single — they throw themselves at every man/woman with a pulse, they crave attention, they crave love, and they look for these things in all the wrong places. I know that Christ loves me more than any man ever could, and I learn each day that this love is enough for me, and anyone that comes along will have to slot in with that love.
Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself? If you didn’t have to worry about failure, what would you do with this time that you might be putting off out of fear?
Faith is a challenge and a half; anyone who says it’s easy is talking crazy talk! Picking up the crosses of my life and dealing with them is a challenge. Praying — having a daily conversation with Christ — is a challenge. Blogging is a bit of a challenge for me… and trying to find time to blog is a challenge in itself these days.

If I didn’t worry about being a failure… I would start my own business. I don’t know what it would be though, so some thought would have to be put in that…. I would also put videos on Youtube because I really admire Youtubers (Shaycarl, CTFxC, Datev Gallagher, HeyKayli) and how they inspire many people. But a realistic thing would be to put a photograph on my blog and show it to people I actually know “in real life.” That is a huge challenge to me. But until I get the courage for that…. it’s anonymous blogging all the way.

Profile No. 17: Morgan McFarlin

Profiles in the Gap

Morgan McFarlin

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Morgan McFarlin is a Pro-life Missionary on college campuses in Illinois. She blogs at Follow and Believe

Did you expect this time of singleness?

No, I did not. Not at all. I fully expected to be either engaged or nearing engagement by the time I graduated from college. Some of this expectation came from how my parents’ love story had played out, but never did I imagine that I would be nearly two years post-undergrad and single.

I struggled all through college watching my friends meet their future spouses. It was something that I so inherently desired, and to be one of only two single folks in my friend group caused me to think there was something wrong with me. Essentially, I began to base my worth on my relationship status. I spent years searching, hoping, and waiting for my life to begin. All because I was “alone.” Sometimes I want to go back in time and slap my former self across the face. If only I’d attempted to live in the “now” rather than for the future…

Only recently have I fully come to truly enjoy and embrace my life…yes, my single life. But even more than that, I’ve stopped allowing my relationship status to define who I am. My life is good, just as it is. And actually, I’m perfectly content being single. I’m really loving my independence, and since I travel a lot for work, it’s nice to be able to pick up and leave whenever. Plus, this period has been really great for investing in my non-romantic relationships. Making friends post-college can be tough, but that’s pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow as a person. Of course, if Mr. Wonderful walked into my life today, I’d be overjoyed…but clearly, if we aren’t together right now, it’s because God has other plans.

Do you seek or find fulfillment in your career?

Growing up as a baby-loving Irish-Catholic, I never gave much thought to the idea of developing a “career.” Sure, I always had ambitions and dreams, but above all, I desired to be a wife and mother.

So, imagine my surprise when I realize that this “stepping stone” job I got straight out of college happens to be what I now believe to be my calling. I love my work! I’m currently based on an Illinois college campus, working to build up pro-life leaders. How awesome is that? Every. day. I have the opportunity to make a difference. I’m actually living the unconventional ministry lifestyle that I longed for in my early collegiate years! Who would’ve thought that those dreams would have been fulfilled?

As content as I am now, when I first acknowledged the love I had for my work, I was a little freaked out. After all, I’d only ever planned on working temporarily before having babies and being a stay-at-home mom. This threw a bit of a wrench in my plans! But that’s the thing about our plans: God loves to mess ’em up and redirect us toward His original plan.

How does faith play a role in your actions and your outlook on your life as a single young adult?

My everyday life requires me to continuously trust that the Lord will provide (support raising, anyone?), and my love life, or lack thereof, is no exception. Trust is ultimately what it all comes down to. Worry and fear comes from a lack of trust in Our Lord and His goodness. After all, if I totally and completely trust that God won’t forget about me, why would I need to worry or fear for the future?

But I can only be at peace with where I’m at in life by choosing this peace daily. It is a daily challenge to choose peace over fear; to choose peace over worry; to choose peace over frustration and bitterness. In the same way that I choose to be at peace with my “singlehood,” I have to make the daily choice to trust God and His faithfulness. I have to choose every single day to allow Him to guide me instead of my feelings. Every day is a struggle to step into the unknown and see where He takes me.

Since you have this time, what are some challenges you give yourself?

More than anything, I’m just trying to take this time to continue becoming the best version of myself. I still have a long way to go, and some days I hope that Mr. Wonderful takes a bit more time to find me so I have longer to prepare. Many singles, myself included, tend to think, “I’ll finally be complete when I’m with my future spouse.” But really, God should be the only one who completes me. And in the end, shouldn’t He always be my main man? 🙂