Finally a Writer!

Finally a Writer!

Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test? It’s amazing. Once you figure out your type, you can read so much about yourself. It’ll tell you what things you probably enjoy, what things you probably shy away from, and which careers you would enjoy the most. If you’ve never taken it, there’s a really great free one here.

I scored ENFP: Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. Bascially, it means that I have a bubbly personality and an interested in pretty much everything, and my creatively-inclined brain tends to jump all over the place, all the time. “Can’t I be an archaeologist and a religion teacher who owns her own pastry shop and writes music?” It’s no wonder that many ENFP’s are frequently miss-diagnosed with ADHD. Our brains never sit still- they’re always on overdrive. And we hate boring, repetitive, routine tasks- which is probably why my house is a mess.

Since graduating college (6 years ago), I’ve been trying to get into a position that uses my brain and my talents, and doesn’t involve a constant war against my mind’s passion for exploration. It’s been a difficult, lonely road, and I’ve often felt like there was nothing out there for me. Until now.

After years of soul-sucking secretarial work, I’m going to be a professional writer! I’ll be working in the city as a Marketing Content Specialist, collaborating with a team to create conversion-focused content to websites, blogs and emails. I’ll get to use my brain. I’ll get to be creative. I’ll get to write. And I’ll have a chance to be me again. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus. Amen.

And I start next week, which means I’m spending this week working on that adoption paperwork. Physical was had this morning. Fire inspection tomorrow. Is there a patron saint of adoptions? I’m going to need all the help I can get!

Also, has anyone else here been through a lengthy career search, or took the long way to finding their heart’s desire? I’d love to hear your stories.

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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!

Paul, meet Connie. Connie, meet Paul.

Paul, meet Connie. Connie, meet Paul.

So, I recently started talking to St. Paul.

In case you’re not familiar to praying to saints, this is where God grants his buddy Paul a special grace to be able to hear me, and I ask Paul to put in a word for me to the big man. Much like asking a friend on earth to pray for you, I’ve asked Paul of Tarsus to give our friend JC a little nudge to “wake him up”, if you will. After all, Jesus was known to fall asleep at inconvenient times. (Mark 4:38, anyone?)

Well, St. Paul woke him up.

On the 3rd day of our St. Paul novena, I got to speak with the Creative Director at the ad agency I work for. I told him I want to write, and he wants to help me! He said he would start throwing me some things to play with, and, “You never know,” he said. “I’ve met people who started at the front desk like you and ended up as Creative Director eventually.”

God bless that man.

On day 6 there was another mention from the Creative Director about hoping to hook me up with some writing in the near future, and an apology that he’s been overly busy lately. Clearly, it is on his mind.

Now I’m waiting. Still praying, still hoping, still waiting. But there is hope, and that is a wonderful thing.

Honestly, I don’t even know if a writing position at this company is the answer. Maybe this nod from the creative director is just meant to give me a little encouragement as I continue to seek meaningful work as a writer. The path is still foggy up ahead. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep praying that the fog clears soon.

To keep the hope going, I’m looking for prayer stories. When has God given you a clear answer to your prayer? How did you hear his voice? Where did it lead? Do you have a favorite go-to prayer when you really need guidance?

Sacred Heart Prayers

Sacred Heart Prayers

As promised, a little published update and thank you for prayers heard.

I said this novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Jude:

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us.

You say this prayer 9 times a day for 9 days, and you are guaranteed to have an answer on or before the 8th day. It has never failed. It didn’t fail this time, either.

I prayed for either a new job or career direction. I have so many interests and I’ve been so confused, I haven’t really known what to look for.

This Saturday (the 7th day), I decided to go pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I tried to go in the morning before meeting a friend for lunch, but I ran out of time. Then, when I met my friend, she mentioned that she parked right near a really cool old Catholic Church. Wait, what?

After lunch (and shopping!) we went inside the church to explore a little. Then, when my friend left, I stayed for about 20 minutes to pray.

While I was praying, I looked up and noticed that up above the tabernacle there was a very large statue of the Sacred Heart, front and center. Looks like I’m in the right place. I looked at that statue for a while and remembered why Jesus asked to be portrayed that way- because he loves us. He loves us so much and his heart continues to burn with love for us. He doesn’t want me to be miserable, directionless and without purpose. He has a plan for me.

My eyes were then drawn to the right of the altar, and a statue of St. Paul was there. St. Paul? What’s he doing here? Wait… this church is called St. Paul’s. St. Paul is the patron saint of writers!

St Paul

Yes, the Paul who wrote half the bible (basically) and who is quoted more than any other source in Christianity was an intellectual with many gifts who was called to use those gifts for the Kingdom of God.

I thought this must be the answer: to look to St. Paul, to be a writer, and to ask for his intercession in finding fulfilling employment using those gifts. I still wanted a little confirmation though. And after all, this was only day 7.

That night I started googling St. Paul novenas. I had never heard of a novena to St. Paul. He’s not exactly known to be a heavy hitter like Anthony, Jude or Therese. And then came God’s second whack over the head for me:

It turns out, the Daughters of St. Paul have a special novena to St. Paul, and it starts JUNE 21.

June 21. Sunday. The 8th day.

Boom.

So last night, we continued with our Sacred Heart novena (must do all 9 days in thanksgiving), and we began a novena to St. Paul the Apostle, patron saint of writers.

Connie Ann’s blog is getting a new name!

Connie Ann’s blog is getting a new name!

Dear Readers,

Connie Ann’s blog finally has a name!

Tales from the Valley was inspired by my current journey through the depths of infertility, but it represents my life journey from the beginning. “For though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.” -Psalm 23.

What originally began as a personal blog to highlight some of my writing has now turned into so much more. I’ve known for some time now that the next step was to give this site a proper name of its own.

One of my goals in 2015 is to give this blog a makeover. I’ll be playing with the backgrounds and layouts for a while until I’m happy with it, so please be patient with me during the process.

Thank you for your support! You all mean so much to me.

Love,

Connie Ann

3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

3 Things Infertile Couples Need from the Church

It has now been 10 years since I learned that I don’t have a uterus (MRKH). During this time, having sought the help of many faithful lay people, priests, theology books, saints’ writings, blog posts and support groups, I have noticed that there is a gaping hole in the body of Catholic publishing and public awareness. Catholics dealing with infertility have plenty of resources telling them what the church does and does not permit with regard to reproductive technologies. What they don’t have is enough spiritual support to help them walk the difficult road they face.

I love that Pope Francis talks about the Church as being a field hospital. It’s not just a place for the perfectly holy with perfectly working bodies who live in perfectly formed worlds. There is sin, there is suffering, and there is death. We live in a war zone.

I don’t know anything about pastoral techniques, and I don’t have a theology degree, but I have walked this particular road long enough to have a decent view of the landscape. Taking the last 10 years into account, this is what I would like the world to know:

Infertile people need help carrying this cross. They need validation of their suffering, confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ, and encouragement to walk the path set before them.

1. Validation of suffering.

Accepting infertility is a grieving process, not unlike grieving the death of a loved one. The pain is real. Don’t minimize it. Never tell someone to “get over it.” Even years later, something unexpected can trigger tears without warning (prime example: Facebook pregnancy announcements- especially with pictures). Your infertile friends are grieving. Minister accordingly. Ask them how they’re doing. Empathize. Tell them you love them. Help them feel loved. Help them know that God loves them and has a plan for them, in spite of their body’s failings. Don’t offer false hope, and beware of Prosperity Gospel squeaking its way in. Sometimes, more prayer isn’t going to make a baby. God will do what He wills, not what we will.

2. Confirmation of their place in the Body of Christ.

Simply put, many of us feel like we don’t belong. We’re surrounded by other couples who have been gifted with children.

Infertile couples need to know that their marriage has a purpose in itself, with or without children, which are a gratuitous gift from God and not a prerequisite to a faithful union or a required demonstration of fruitfulness. Being “open to life” means being open to whatever life God has planned for you, be it 10 children, no children, overseas missionary work, or anything else. Growing up in a family, it’s natural to expect children-but what right do we have to expect a gift? If we teach that certain technologies are wrong because children are a gift and not a right, then we need to carry that through and emphasize the fact that marriage is not made complete by the blessing of children- sacramental marriage is already complete to begin with. This teaching tends to get lost. We need to remember that children are not the only manifestation of fruitfulness in marriage. They are most obvious, but not the only. Let’s talk about other manifestations of fruitfulness: Charity, Hospitality and Sacrifice.

3. Encouragement to walk the path set before them.

Following the teachings of the Magisterium in the case of infertility may be the hardest thing that many of these couples have ever done in their lives. With some forms of infertility, the the only way to fulfill the good, natural, and burning desire for a biological child is through illicit treatments. Laying down these God-given desires and freely choosing to forgo these technologies (sometimes out of pure obedience rather than agreement) is a tremendous sacrifice. It is truly dying to oneself. This self-sacrifice can go on for years, or even a lifetime. If you know someone dealing with infertility who is trying to follow Church teaching- encourage them. Recognize their desire to please the Lord. Don’t beat them down with doctrine and never, ever say, “just adopt.” Adoption is a unique calling, one that the couple needs to discern separately.

The best thing that anyone ever said to me upon expressing my frustration with Church teaching was, “God gives us these rules for a reason. He knows what is ultimately going to make you happy. Somehow, I don’t think that IVF is going to make you happy.” Those words have stuck with me ever since they were said some six years ago, and they have become the biggest source of encouragement for me along this path. True, these words won’t work for everyone, but there is something out there to give life to The Way for each person who desires to walk it. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to help us to see the beauty of the Church’s teachings. Help us stay strong in our belief that this road is worth it. Be a friend along the road, even if it’s the Via Dolorosa.

Deep Into the Stars

Deep Into the Stars

From the time I was a little girl, my dad would take me outside at night to teach me the constellations and show me the moon and planets through his telescope. I would have so much fun out there looking into the sky that I wouldn’t go inside until Mom called out and said it was time to go to bed—for the 3rd time.

James gave me this gorgeous telescope for Christmas. (In case you’re new to this blog, James is the best husband in the history of the universe, and spends all of his time making my dreams come true.) Star watching happens to be a passion we share, which makes it all the more exciting.

Observatory

I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Right here in the home that I share with the man of my dreams, I have my books, my telescope, my piano, my KitchenAid mixer, my National Geographic subscription, my photos from trips overseas… really, I could go on. The little Connie Ann looking at the stars with her daddy would be absolutely THRILLED to know how her life turned out.

That little girl would have some questions, though—she’s a smarty pants, after all. She would ask why I didn’t become an archaeologist, or a singer, or a scientist. She wouldn’t mind at all if I told her that I’m a writer. In fact, she would be pretty excited about that too. She would want me to write books, though. She loved books. She still does.

Maybe I should invite that little girl to come visit, and listen to her talk about all the things she wants to do when she grows up. Maybe she knows what I should be doing now.

I’m sure I’ll see her soon, the next time I go out to look up at the stars.

What the Dickens?

I feel like I’m finally joining the adult world. James and I have settlement on our first house on Friday! We just spent an hour at Target today getting grown up things like trash cans and dish towels. And I didn’t buy books or movies because I currently have “enough” and they’re not “necessary”. Go figure.

Our wedding is not til June 1, so only James will be living in the house for the next 10 months (good thing it’s only 10 minutes from where I live). I get to spend the next 10 months painting and making it exactly how I want it, and filling those gorgeous built-in bookshelves with all sorts of papery wonders. Now you’re talking.

Speaking of books, I recently discovered something amazing. You’re not going to believe it. I started reading A Tale of Two Cities and I am enjoying it. Sure, Ebeneezer Scrooge and Oliver Twist are household names. But how many modern people actually enjoy reading Charles Dickens? I know I never did, even though I wanted to.

Like many modern readers, I approach novels with a bit of violence. You know, eyes flashing like lighting through the words, flipping pages like a wild storm until the end is reached. This method has served me well for decades, beginning with Meet Felicity  in the second grade, and even through my love affairs with Alexander Dumas and Jane Austen.

Dickens doesn’t work that way. It was the opening passage of A Tale of Two Cities that let me on to the secret. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Speed read the beginning and you miss the artfulness of the most beautiful series of comma splices in history. If you try to rush through Dickens, you’re missing the point. He’s meant to be enjoyed slowly, like super rich dark chocolate.

So now I know. I read no more than one chapter a day, one sentence at a time, admiring the genius of each phrase. And I’m loving it. Charlie and I have made peace.

Wedding Website Adventures

We finally picked a date! June 1, 2013. I can’t really even describe what a relief that is, and how happy it makes me. Next step, wedding website.

Actually, we already have one. I made something about 7 months ago when we first got engaged using WeddingChannel.com. To be honest, none of the pre-fab backgrounds and formats were really working for me. It’s a great and easy tool, especially if you have zero experience blogging or website building, but I just wasn’t happy with the appearance. None of the options were really us.

Finally, it dawned on me to make my own site using WordPress. Why did it take me 7 months to figure that one out? The great thing about putting your wedding website on WordPress is that you have way more control over the formatting, the background, and the title. Also, we can keep it going long after the big day as a blog about our life.

Recent Web Development Activities

Going along with all that, this week I’ve been crazy into site building. Right now I’m still working on a site for my mom’s painting, www.ConniesArtGallery.com. I know I need to learn a lot more about upgrading appearances, but I’m getting somewhere. I’d like to have a job writing web content soon, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the technical aspects of web development. I worked for a year in SEO, so I know a little, but I need to learn more. So that’s what I’ll be doing this week during my down-time. Does anyone know of any free online tutorials that are especially helpful?

Dealing with Writer’s Block

What do you do when you can’t think of anything to write about? There are a million topics floating through my head right now. I can’t seem to get my brain to chill out for a sec and pick one. Actually, my stomach has just now decided to join my brain and tense up in a knot, making me severely stressed and uncomfortable.

How are you supposed to be a writer when every time you get a second to sit down and write, you freeze up? I have an hour lunch break at work, and whenever the shop is slow enough, I spend the time writing. Right now I only have 15 minutes left and I’m starting to hyperventilate. The worst part is, the more time I lose, the more I think about how I’m wasting the only fun time I have every day. I like my work environment, but I don’t like what I do. Writing during lunch is the only fun thing I do during the day.

The problem right now isn’t that I can’t think of a topic. It’s that I can’t settle on just one long enough to write anything interesting about it. Does this ever happen to anyone else? What do you do when that happens?