Starting a Prayer Journal

Starting a Prayer Journal

I love my diary. Always have, always will. In fact, I have diaries documenting my life from middle school onward. Some parts are fun to go back and read. Others, not so much. Still, it is fascinating for me to see how much I have grown and changed throughout my small 20-something years of life. Things that worried Miss 15-year-old Connie Ann seem ridiculous to me now. Other times, I marvel at what could only have been the Holy Spirit working in my life.

I record all kinds of things in my diary- things people said, places I visited, achievements, etc., but the most fascinating part for me to read now is the development of my relationship with God. There were times in my life where I was on fire with love for him, and other times when I was not. Things happened. Hard things. Looking back, I can see how God used them for his purpose.

My diaries have been great for tracking my faith journey, but now I think it is time for something more. Something deeper. Something more focused.

Something for recording my spiritual travels.
For recording my spiritual travels

I’ve decided to start a prayer journal. I want to keep track of my relationship with God, and where he takes me, and where we’re going, so that someday I can look back and see all the places we have been together.

Some prayer journals list things prayed for, and the way they were answered. Some prayer journals list things to be grateful for each day. Mine may include these things, but really I’m most interested in paying attention to the way God speaks in this life. I hope this exercise helps me to see these things.

Has anyone here kept a prayer journal of some sort? Did you find it helpful? Was it difficult to keep up with? Any thoughts, tips, and suggestions are welcome!

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My Country Valentine

My Country Valentine

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I wanted to take a moment to thank God for sending me my best friend James, and blessing us with the most beautiful marriage. It is better than I ever imagined, and sweeter than I ever deserved.

This morning on my way to work, I was listening to Gus Lloyd on the Catholic Channel ask listeners about their song. People called in and said how many years they’ve been married, what their song is, and how it came to be their song. It was the sweetest show!

On our first Valentine’s Day together James made me a mix tape (CD). Songs included Diamond Rio’s “Unbelievable”, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Brian McKnight’s “Back at One”,  and Westlife’s “On Angel’s Wings”, among others. Can you tell we were kids in the 90s?

He also included “Amazed” by Lonestar, and that was the one we danced to at our wedding. That is our song. But we also have a few more that are close to our hearts.

Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” is pretty much the story of our first year of dating. Slammin’ screen doors, sneakin’ out late, talkin’ real slow cause it’s late and your mamma don’t know… you get the idea. We were 20 and 22.

The song that always makes me feel super warm and fuzzy though is none other than Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”. Cause yeah, he got down on one knee… and we planned it all out for the middle (beginning) of June.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone, but most importantly to my handsome, country music loving, best friend and husband James.

Do you have a song that really speaks to you? What song just makes your heart melt?

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners

The other night I came across a bunch of pictures from our honeymoon. So happy, so full of love.. so… exactly like the present. We’re still on our honeymoon, mentally. Of course, we haven’t even been married for 2 full years yet.

Sure, a lot has happened, and we have a lot on our plate right now with his refereeing, my infertility ministry and planning our upcoming UK adventure. But looking at these pictures made me realize: That’s us. And that is all that matters.

We’ve taken a little step back from the craziness of life and dedicated every Sunday to spending time together as a family. Forget the rest of the world. Sundays, we’re back on our honeymoon. Last Sunday, we went to the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore. Two weeks ago, we went to the movies. This week, we’re planning on staying in and trying yoga together, then browsing travel books.

By the way, it all started with Whole 30. We’ve made physical health a priority in the last 28 days and it has paid off tremendously in our emotional and relational health as well. I’ve been wanting to make Sunday our family day of rest for a long time, but it wasn’t until our Whole 30 that this became a reality. There’s only a few days left, but I love what this program is doing for my life! I’m so excited to keep living this Whole 30/Paleo lifestyle throughout the year.

One Year Into Happily Ever After

This month we celebrated out first anniversary. James surprised me by planning a whole weekend of fun, romantic dates. Saturday we went to Mount Vernon, which I’ve never visited. As a history person growing up in the DC suburbs, I know, it’s surprising. Sunday morning we went to Mass at St. Patrick’s, the place of our wedding. After Mass we walked around Ellicott City and the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and had dinner at Rusty Scupper overlooking the water. After dinner, James took me to the hotel where we spent our wedding night, and the staff had put up a sign for us and scattered rose petals on the bed. Everything was so beautiful. I cried. In a good way.

That weekend of celebrating was kind of like our first year- happy, excited, totally in love and completely elated. We still feel like we’re on our honeymoon.

Yes, we have challenges, but we’re dealing with them together. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I think, thanks to God’s help, we’re holding hands as we go along.

Year 2 of Connie and James is forecasted to be another fun one. Hopefully we’ll be going to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Newport Beach, CA in the Fall, and touring the United Kingdom in the Spring. We may continue pursuing the adoption process, but after our last agency visit we learned we might not be in a good enough financial position yet. While I think I might like the idea of spending a few more years to ourselves, the emotional side of infertility is currently our most difficult struggle- but that’s for another post.

No matter what lies ahead, we know we can continue to be as happy as ever, as long as we keep God first, always.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Marriage Advice from a Pumpkin Patch

I told James that I wasn’t going to be happy this Fall until I had carved a pumpkin, baked a pie, and raked leaves. Check numbers 1 and 2.

My Jack-O-Lantern of 2012

We got our darling pumpkin from a redneck on the side of the road. First thing he says when we pull up is, “So who’s paying?” When we said that I was the one with the cash, he said “It’s always that way with young people. The girl pays and the guy’s just standing there.” “Well it’s all both our money anyway,” we said. “Oh, are y’all married?” “Almost,” we answered.

So began the conversation. He told us about how he and his wife divorced after 10 years and then became best friends until she was struck by a car and died. You could see the heartbreak in his watery blue eyes. He told us that the worst thing you can do in a marriage is be jealous. “If y’all go to a party, doesn’t matter who she’s talking to, as long as she leaves with you that’s fine.”

I guess the moral of the story is that marriage is hard enough, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Like my grandfather used to say, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half-shut after.” What is it about “forever” that makes people start getting petty and forgetting their friendship? I hope we always remember that we are best friends, and that nothing is ever more important than this.

“Emotionally Engaged”

“Emotionally Engaged”

I recently finished reading a brilliant and life-altering book by Allison Moir-Smith, entitled Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life.

I stumbled upon the book in the wedding planning section of my local library. Yes, I’ll admit, I was trolling titles such as 1001 Creative Ideas for A Wedding and How to Have Your Dream Wedding on a Budget in an attempt to find a way to enjoy being engaged, when I came across a book that actually had an answer for what I was feeling.

Allison Moir-Smith is a hero. She has done what millions of women have been too chicken to do: admit that being engaged is not, by any stretch, the happiest time of your life. It’s exciting, yes. It’s a dream come true to marry your true love. But it’s also stressful. And you can feel sadness, hurt, anxiety, depression, and excitement all at the same time. Your life is changing, and no matter how much you love your husband-to-be, change is difficult. It’s confusing. And to top it all off, you’re simultaneously planning the biggest and most important party of your life.

In a world inundated with voices like TheKnot.com and Martha Stewart Weddings, Allison Moir-Smith is one of the few people acknowledging the fact that only 12% of brides feel nothing but happiness and rainbows during engagement. That’s a huge deal! Every single relationship in your life is changing. Your relationship with your parents is changing, as your primary family loyalty is shifting from them to your fiancé. Your relationship with your fiancé is changing as you go from girlfriend to wife. Your relationships with your girlfriends change. Your relationship to yourself changes most of all. You’re undergoing the biggest transformation of your life to date, but everyone from your best friend to your bridal magazine expects you to be giddy with happiness 100% of the time. It’s no wonder the majority of brides are stressed!!

Reading this book, I realized that it is ok for me to feel sad about my changing identity. It’s ok to feel torn inside as I have Sunday dinner with my husband-to-be instead of my mom and dad. Not only is it ok to have these feelings, but it is extremely important that I let myself feel them. Just like grief, the only way to get through it is to feel it. Better to process your feelings as an engaged woman than to bottle it all up and unleash a “rain” of terror on your newlywed husband (pun intended; I’m a historian after all).

I’m so grateful that I found this book. Already I feel much happier. Now I know that yes, I can be sad about losing my primary identity as “daughter” and happy about becoming James’s wife, all at the same time. I’ve only just finished reading, but I feel much more hopeful about the remainder of my engagement. The next 8 months leading up to my wedding day will, hopefully, have more meaning for me as I work to form my new identity. And of course, I’ll always be Connie Ann.

For more information about Allison Moir-Smith and her book, please click here.

Rumpelstitskin, Belle, and the Bachelorette: Fairy Tales and True Love

Now that Once Upon a Time is over for the season, what is there to live for, really? I cried excessively as Prince Charming and Snow White were reunited in Storybrooke (just thinking about the moment he cried “Snow!” is making me teary-eyed), yet I was disappointed that Rumpelstiltskin did not react as much to Belle. I thought that after years of missing her, he would have given up his magical pursuits to be with her.

I supposed that would have been too much like a fairy tale. As much as he loves Belle, it’s just not enough.  The moment the curse was lifted and she remembered him, we didn’t get a beautiful, sweet, romantic moment full of “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” He was too absorbed in his own power to live happily ever after with Belle. I wonder if that will be a significant part of next season’s story line.

In other fairy tale news, the Bachelorette is quickly turning into an obsession. I love Emily Maynard; she’s so sweet. Hopefully, as a single mom, she’ll bring a bit more class to the show. Still though, you wonder why a single mom who’s been engaged twice would trust reality television to find a good husband. I hope it works out for her.

Why is it that we all love fairy tales, no matter how old we are? Maybe it’s because in today’s world, true love is often a rare, elusive dream. I wonder if the reason it’s so rare in the 21st century is the lax sexual morals of the last 50 years. “Free love” is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. Real, true, Corinthians 13 love comes from total selflessness and giving. It comes from a philosophy in which the love between a husband and wife is one of the most beautiful and sacred of gifts. Love is patient. Love is kind. And when people do their best to live beautiful, honest, selfless lives, they find the truest love the world has ever seen.

 
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ~1 Corinthians 13

Dealing with Life’s Cravings

Dealing with Life’s Cravings

I remember my mother telling me when I was little that you had to love yourself first before you could love anyone else. After reading some beautiful posts by writer Sage Cohen, I started thinking about this again. Loving yourself. It goes hand in hand with knowing yourself, doesn’t it?

Sometimes I forget who I am. I forget that I learn quickly and hate it when people talk loudly in the morning. I forget that I forget to go to bed. I forget that I love reading about history and looking at art. Sometimes, when I’ve been insanely stressed for weeks at a time, it’s because I have forgotten to remember what I like.

In yesterday’s meeting with my health coach, we were talking about cravings. Sometimes, when you’re craving food, it’s a manifestation of craving for one of life’s primary foods: a stimulating job, a fulfilling relationship, a balanced spiritual and physical exercise habit. I know that for me, as I sit here dreaming of carbs at my office in the auto body shop, there are several things lacking. For one, like many under-30’s today, I have yet to find a satisfying job. More importantly, I am still in a transition period where I’m waiting to create a new home.

I’m so excited to be getting married and starting a home with James. I want a place that’s safe, a place I can fill with my books and my singing, a place where I can write. I know myself enough to know I need a home. Maybe once I finally have a sweet, loving place to live, I’ll be able to grow in other ways, too.

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

Cheesesteaks + Football = Love

This weekend, James and I took a mini-vacation to Philadelphia. It’s one of our favorite places to visit. James is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, I am a huge fan of Philadelphia’s colonial history, and neither one of us believes in setting a limit on cheesesteak consumption.

Surprisingly, for all the times we’ve gone to Philly and checked out historic sites and football games, we’ve never really spent much time in City Center. Even more surprising is that for having lived 26 years in the Megalopolis, James had never seen a skyscraper up close. I had a feeling it would be a new thing for him. I knew he has never been to New York City, even though it’s only 4 hours from where we live. So while we were driving through the middle of Philly, I pointed through the sunroof and said, “Hey, Look up!” He peeks up through the roof and says “Holy Shit!!!” It was his first close encounter with a structure that was nearly 1,000 feet high. This was his first view:

Comcast Center, Philadelphia's tallest building

2012, the year of engagement. That was almost the title of my Facebook album for the pictures from this weekend. After years of dating and worrying that things will never fall into place for you to finally get married and start a life together, it happens. Suddenly, you have people running around worrying about caterers and guest lists, and 800,000,000 details and decisions that threaten to take the focus away from what’s most important, the relationship that is on its way to becoming indissoluble. I love the commitment and the promise of a future together that comes with engagement. I love knowing that a wedding is just a number of months away. But I do miss that, before we were engaged, every date was purely about getting to know each other. I want more of that. I’m really glad that the Catholic Church requires some marriage preparation sessions. I’m looking forward to spending more time focussing on each other, and not so much on wedding details.

So, during this year of engagement, James and I will be doing everything we can to keep our focus on us, and not our wedding. We’ll be making memories, seeing new things, and learning as much about each other as possible. Sure, we have a lot of business to attend to, with finding a place to live and picking out a cake. But I’m trying hard not to stress about wedding decisions. The most important thing we’ll be doing this year is beginning to form our new identity as a family.

Will Rumpelstiltskin and Belle have their Happily Ever After?

First of all, I just want to say that making Rumpelstiltskin the Beast was GENIUS. I’ve been re-watching Sunday’s episode “Skin Deep” all week. Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast made the fairy tale become so much more real. Beauty and the Beast (Disney version) is a beautiful story, but severely flawed in the sense that you’re teaching little girls that controlling men with severe temper issues can change overnight if you love them enough: so not true in real life. Once Upon a Time’s version, though, gave the Beast a whole deeper dimension. He’s been through  a lot in his life, and is currently cursed with a deep dark power. Though he loves Belle, he doesn’t believe that she can’t truly love him back. In order to love her, he has to give up his power, a sacrifice that he was not willing to make.

Now we have a very interesting turn of events. Regina and Mr. Gold now officially know that each other are in fact Rumpelstiltskin and the Evil Queen. Mr.Gold/Rumpel is severely angry with the Queen/Regina, as it was his distrust of her that led him to assume that Belle was working for Regina. He let Belle go, and then the Queen told him that Belle committed suicide. Rumpel is severely hurt, damaged, grieving over Belle and harboring seething anger towards the Queen. The Queen/Regina now knows for sure that Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin remembers everything, and she is keeping Belle (who is alive) hidden in an underground psych ward.

So what’s next? I really hope that Belle and Rumpelstiltskin have another chance at the end. I’m sure Regina will bring them face to face again to try to undo Rumpelstiltskin’s power. In a surprising turn of events, Rumpelstiltskin is starting to become a character that we feel for, now that we know he was a normal man once and that all his anger and craziness stems from the many horrible things that happened to him.

Does loving the Beast ever work out?

In this episode, the Queen says, “I would never tell a woman to kiss the man who’s holding her captive! What kind of message is that?” This brings us back to the whole issue with the message of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. It’s true, emotionally  or physically abusive men almost never change, and a woman should never stick around to find out. That being said, is there anything positive that we can glean from this? Is it ever possible for someone to change?

Magic and fairy tales aside, true love changes people. When someone is truly loved, and truly loves someone else, they change into a better person. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, and sometimes it takes a while, but it happens. I remember once, when I met a cousin of mine’s girlfriend, I knew immediately that he would marry her. For the first time in his life he seemed completely grown-up, mature, strong and stable. It’s not that he wasn’t a good person before, it’s just that once he met her, he started to shine. They’ve been married almost 3 years.

When you know you are loved, you want to be better, at least for that person. You stop thinking about “me” and start thinking about “you”. True love can transform people. It’s what we were designed for. Maybe that’s why, in the fairy tales, true love’s kiss solves all the problems. In the real world, it’s not an instant change, but it can be just as real.