Embrace Your Quirk

In less than a week, I head back to graduate school. 11 years ago, I started my undergraduate journey at a small college in Central Kentucky.

To put it politely: I was a basketcase.

I obsessed over things that, in the long run, just didn’t matter. For example, my freshman year in the one credit physical education class, I wrote a nearly 10 page paper about my daily health habits. I showed up 20 minutes early to a weightlifting class that I took at my advisor’s suggestion (just in case I ended up dropping a class and wouldn’t dip below full-time). I once cried because the schedule I planned was ruined because a class I wanted filled up before I could register. As I finished my first master’s degree, I painstakingly sifted through my final paper for a misplaced comma or erroneous data.

Who obsesses like that? I’ll tell you: It’s me. Was my physical ed teacher looking for a 10 page paper? No. Did the coach who taught weightlifting need me there 20 minutes early? No. These things just didn’t matter.

To say that I grew out of this anxiety and hyper-planning would be a lie. It followed me after I graduated and into my career. I worried if I didn’t show up somewhere 20 minutes early (Can’t be late to being early! was the idea), I worried if all my ducks weren’t in a row. I texted people non-stop to keep them posted if my plans slightly changed (I can’t keep them waiting!). The list goes on. Perhaps you recognize this behavior because you too are like me.

My mom, the consummate advice giver, recently said “This time, don’t stress out.”

TranslationIt’s never that deep. Don’t let anxiety over perfect grades and perfect performance ruin your time at Columbia. Think about this as your “second chance.”

She’s not wrong. I blame my anxiety and hyper-controlling/anxious/need for utmost perfection to missing out on a lot of fun experiences in college because I was too worried about perfecting my writing technique on Old Testament theophany. Instead, I could have been out winning mad money at Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day.

As I prepare for the new semester and my new journey, I find myself going back to my default setting: Control.

This time, however, I’m embracing it.

Yes, I’m an anxious control freak and I’ve finally come to terms with this reality. I like perfection, I like my ducks in a row, I like schedules, I like rules, I like order. I crave structure and will do almost anything to maintain it. I’ve tried to rewire my brain to avoid this tendency, I’ve tried to “chill,” I’ve tried to “let it go.”

But, for me, it’s not that easy. What is easy, though, is recognizing that at some point during this semester, I will struggle with anxiety and unrealistic expectations. I will probably call my mom, crying, asking her why I thought this whole thing was a good idea. I’ll stare at my fiancé as he tells me, “Goose, just chill.”

And you know what? I now expect that my anxiety and perfectionism will crop up and I know that at the end of the day, everything will be okay. Nothing is ever that serious in life. 

So this semester, I know I’ll never know how to “chill.” I know it’s just not in my personality or nature. But, what I can do is anticipate my own quirks and go from there.

Perhaps that’s first step to everything else. 


How do you embrace your quirk? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on your favorite social media outlet or emailing to a friend. 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding, basically.

My last activity here was in February. I wrote about finding, igniting, and maintaining your “blue flame.” That is, the passion that makes you feel and become alive – the very thing that makes your heart jump and your soul spark.

Since that day in February, I didn’t write a single word for publication. I thought about it, sure. I started drafts, purchased a nice notebook, tried to take a blogging course, maintained a journal at the turn of the new fiscal year (under the impression that my children would donate my papers to assorted alma maters after I died), and stared at blinking cursors and blank pages. Even when other bloggers offered to feature me on their pages, I hemmed and hawed.

The reason for my silence is that I’m hiding.

I’m hiding in my own frustration at the lack of traction in my own writing – the fact that I feel like I’m just another faith-based blogger shouting into the darkness that we call the Internet.

Nobel Prize or Not at All

I don’t know about you – but when I want to do something, I want to do it well. Very well. I’m a perfectionist of the highest order: neatly written to-do lists, perfectly sequenced strings of a daily Rosary, praying all of the entries of the Liturgy of the Hours, sorting my books by size, straight A’s. It’s no surprise that this bleeds over into my writing habits – a needling sense of perfection. That, if I don’t write the next viral blog post or conceive a memoir worth of the Nobel Prize, then it’s just not worth it.

This is difficult: I want to write. I believe I was made to write, as it’s part of my vocation.

I once read that your occupation is what you’re paid for and your vocation is what you’re made for. If you’re lucky, sometimes the two overlap. In my case – that’s not the reality. I believe I have a way with words, the gift of telling stories that people get. More often than not, my regular readers tell me how much they enjoy my writing and how accessible it is. Yet, to be wholly transparent, I hate how little recognition I receive from my writing. The internet is an information void and I’m one pixel drifting in and out the collective consciousness.

Drive-Thru Writing

When I write, it’s like I’ve prepared this giant, wonderful banquet for my family and friends. Except when they arrive, they tell me that they decided to swing by the McDonald’s drive-thru on their way home and just aren’t hungry right now. It’s deflating to labor on a well-thought out piece, only for it to receive up to 50 separate views on a very good day.

All the while, I see Susan write primarily about her two home-schooled kids and how much those little angels *love* praying the Rosary before breakfast, making paper dolls of the saints and angels, all while her son “plays” the Mass with his toy kit in the well-decorated living room.

“Little Aquinas has discerned a call to the priesthood and he’s only 3 years old!,” says Susan.

I’ve rolled my eyes so hard at these blogs that surely one day my eyes will dislodge from their sockets. Why does Susan gets mega views with her cupcake recipe and I’m over here with 20 views on my post debunking myths believed about Catholicism?

And I get it, Catholic moms are a big audience with many needs. All moms believe that, at some point or another, they’re surely messing up their kids and they want someone, perhaps a friendly blogger, to tell them that everything will be okay. They need a Susan, and for better or worse, I’m not a Susan.

I can’t write about the best homeschool curriculum or the most engaging Advent activities for littles. I can’t tell women that everything will be okay when they’re practicing NFP and found themselves pregnant again. I don’t know how to keep kids quiet in Mass because I don’t have kids to take to Mass.

That’s just not my niche right now.

“Wow Sarah, why do you hate Susans and mommy blogs?” 

I don’t hate women named Susan and I don’t hate mommy blogs. However, I sense that for female writers, especially in religious spheres, she has to tap into the common experience of motherhood and the mundane. Primarily, blogs for moms about sanctifying your time as you wash the dishes or how to pray a chaplet very quickly as your child naps.

My most hurriedly devoured pieces aren’t about explaining doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or why Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation – it’s the posts about what I’m wearing and where I’m traveling to next. Essentially, lifestyle content. Even more discouraging is when I write for other Catholic outlets, most of my pieces are met with a “That’s nice” or nothing at all, all while others are flooded with inspirational comments.

(Full disclosure: My most popular post on this blog is a reflection on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary).

I cringe at these statistics because I don’t want to be just another female blogger who writes about her hair, her shopping trip, or that time she tanned on a beach in Europe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing about shopping, shoes, and sunbathing, but I want to write substantial pieces that challenge my readers’ beliefs in a positive way – even if they’re not Catholic and have no desire to become Catholic. Faith matters, and even if you’re a nonbeliever, faith still permeates all parts of our society despite the growing onslaught of secularism.

There is a joke that says once you convert to Catholicism, you automatically receive a book deal and successful podcast, but it looks like the Vatican, after my confirmation, may have lost my address via the Diocese of Lexington. I just want to know that my writing matters and that it’s worth the time and the energy I funnel into it.

Yes, if just one person reads what I’m writing here and finds faith in the Lord Jesus – it’s all worth it. Sure, I don’t need human recognition for anything to matter, but knowing that the big literary meal I’m cooking up will soon be devoured by a hungry audience is a good motivator. I don’t want my blue flame to fizzle, but without a clear purpose, it seems like it might extinguish at any given moment. I don’t want to be salty, but honestly, I’m feeling very salty.

But for now, I’ll linger around, try to pull myself out of hiding, and keep clacking on my keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settling: Notes on Putting Down Roots

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

As I write this, I am somewhere over the American midwest, headed towards Dallas, Texas. If I had to guess, my plane is cutting across the sky where Tennessee and Missouri meet. Below me, I see a river and patches of farmland.

I am on the road again.

This time, I am flying from Kentucky back to New York City at the conclusion of a much-anticipated winter break. After a delay at my airport of origin, I am experiencing a reroute through Dallas in order to return to the Big Apple. While it’s totally out of the way to travel southwest with a destination in the northeast – I don’t mind. I love travel, especially by air. I love the vibe of airports, the anticipation of boarding a plane, the suspension of everyday life as the aircraft takes off and soars through time. I love the movement, I love the adventure.

Before moving away to college, I lived in the same house for 18 years. For me, moving away to college was an adventure akin to getting on the plane – the vibe was right, the spirit of anticipation was there. As I studied to become a teacher, I thought of all of the school districts in Kentucky where I could teach. From the far Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River – my opportunities were endless. I thought I would find myself teaching in the hills of Eastern Kentucky one year and in the Western Coal Fields another year. The idea of bouncing around the state was met with anticipation –  another sense of adventure.

After graduating from college, my living arrangements shouted “adventure.” I lived in South Korea with a Korean family for a year, taught in two separate school districts in Western Kentucky, and taught for three years in my own home county. My homes included an apartment situated on a busy main street, an apartment nestled between two retirees, my parents basement, and another little house. Now, as a New York City resident, I find myself living in an all-women’s living residence on the west end of the famed 34th Street.

However, between the movements, I found myself growing weary of the constant moves and change in jobs. Some changes were not my own choices, while some were. Yet, I longed for the days when I lived in the same little house on the same little farm. The adventure was fine, but it was beginning to grow old.

After moving to Manhattan, I started to make an effort to establish more roots in my local community. By nature (or social construction), New York City is an ever-changing place. One doesn’t move to Manhattan to settle down and raise a family – he or she moves there to say they lived in the heart of one of the best cities on the planet. It’s not a place of permanence for most people who live there. Instead, it’s a constant revolving door of people and ideas.

Despite the built-in opposition, I wanted to make Manhattan a home – if but for a little while. For example, many Catholic young adults who take their faith seriously want to find a parish in which they can connect. This can be tough for a myriad of reasons. I am no exemption, and in college, I was a notorious church hopper. However, after my first few weeks in my new home, I made an effort to register at a nearby parish. This was one small step to creating a home, to establish roots.

Finally, in big cities, the temptation to “wonder” is at an all-time high. I would wonder what it would be like if I lived in another borough of the city, if I had another job, if I could go and do so many other things. Yet, as I wrap up my first six months living in New York City, I found this “wonder” mentality detrimental – I couldn’t enjoy my blessings without wondering about everything else around me. This tiny shift in mindset alone helped me root my mind and heart in my current location – instead of allowing my mind to wander. Day-by-day, I root myself in my own reality and enjoy the city as it bustles and grows. The city is more vibrant, the world becomes a lovelier place to live.

Rootedness in our own culture is tough – we are always promised that something bigger and better is around the corner. We are encouraged to move around – to find what’s out there. Ambition is the new king of our hearts.

I encourage you, especially if you are making a move to a new city or new home – think about how you can cultivate rootedness – even if it is temporary. Maybe this looks like registering at a local parish or church, joining a social group, or intentionally making friends with your neighbors. For each of us, this looks different. However, I recommend that we all be still, if but for a moment, and reflect on how we can create homes and sanctuaries, right where we are.

A Roadmap for Prayer

One of the beauties of Catholicism is the embrace of rhythm.

The Church boasts a robust liturgical year filled with silence, celebration, mourning, and remembrance. The Liturgy of the Hours marks the days with the reading of Psalms and the calm punctuation of prayer. The Rosary reminds us to be still for twenty-ish minutes at a time, while the Angelus beckons us to remember the Incarnation of Christ at 6 AM and Noon. Rhythm is everywhere, the order of time surrounds Catholics in an ever-present embrace.

Still, though, our lives outside of Mass are often disordered, or distorted, by time. We struggle to find time to pray (and forget trying to find time to read the daily Mass readings). Often, it just doesn’t seem possible to be as devout as many of us would like. This probably applies to you, as it very much applies to me.

Before moving to New York City, my life was fairly leisurely. I usually didn’t leave for work until 8:00 AM and returned around 3:30 PM. Now, I leave for work at 5:30 AM and return around the same time in the evening. The morning Rosary I once treasured has taken a back seat in favor of more sleep and the Mass readings have slipped to a place before bed. My devotional life has been in a tizzy, and frankly, I just don’t like it.

While I am adverse to New Year’s resolutions, I am not adverse to new beginnings that just happen to take place in the first weeks of a new month. This month (and for the rest of the year), I want to commit to a more ordered devotional life. For example, when I first converted to Catholicism, I wanted to do all the the devotions: prayers, rosaries, novenas, journaling. You name it, I wanted in. Yet, I found myself easily overwhelmed and giving up. Almost two years into my life as a Catholic, I discovered the value of order (and not doing all the things all the time) – much like the liturgical year that orders our own devotional lives.

To make things easier, I decided to pursue one devotion per day of the week and retain some devotions on a daily basis. For example, everyday I want to pray two entries in the Liturgy of the Hours (typically the 6AM and 6PM hours), read the daily Mass readings, and pray the Angelus. For me, this is manageable and can be done almost anywhere, including the subway or as I walk down the streets of New York. For other days, I have selected various prayers and litanies to order, and not overwhelm, my life as a praying Catholic.

A Roadmap for Prayer in 2019

Sunday: Recitation of Holy Rosary

Monday: Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Tuesday: Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Wednesday: Litany of Humility

Thursday: Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Friday: Divine Mercy Chaplet 

Saturday: Prayer for the Intercession of the Chinese Martyr Saints

As I am merely human, I will not fulfill my desires everyday of the week. But, I believe this is a great start to more ordered devotional life in 2019. Do you have certain days that you say certain prayers? Which are your favorite? Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I always love to hear suggestions. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

There is a famous poem attributed to St. Mother Teresa that goes something like this:

If you are honest, people may cheat you. / Be honest anyway / Give the world your best and it may not be enough / Do good anyway / If you find happiness, people may be jealous. / Be happy anyway.

I’m not sure if the beloved saint actually penned or quoted the poem, but it is surely needful in our current society. We find ourselves tangled in fear and hurt, and often, we’re afraid to do the right thing.

Lately, I’ve often thought of St. Mother Teresa and her impact on the world.

Earlier this year, I read an authorized biography of the saint from Calcutta, often moved by her ability to shun what the world finds important (awards, accolades), in exchange for what the world deems useless (the poor and marginalized). Before, I thought Mother Teresa was little more than a “coffee cup saint,” someone who said nice things that made inspirational mugs sell like hotcakes. Yet, the more I read, the more I discovered the power of love and how Jesus used Mother to change the world.

In December 2018, I began formation as a Lay Missionary of Charity (LMC) with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters in Brooklyn, NYC. When I was a Protestant, I was a member of an ecumenical order of lay Benedictines and lay Franciscans. It was a good experience and a great introduction to monastic living in the “outside” world. After I became Catholic, I yearned for the rhythm of the monastic life, but I didn’t know where to turn.

I grew up familiar with the Dominicans who ran the local Catholic college and a few parishes near my home in rural Kentucky. Of course, I was acquainted with the Benedictines, but the Franciscan charism never appealed to me. After moving to New York, I considered formation with the lay Carmelites, but the charism also didn’t seem like a good match. I desperately wanted some “school” to help me follow Jesus better, but I was coming up short.

Yet, St. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity always found a way to work their way into my daily life. A quote here, a reminder there. It was evident that that Jesus was pointed me towards formation with the LMCs. Honesty, I couldn’t believe that God would guide me to study the life of a saint who I believed was just okay and maybe good for a few quotes on social media. But, as Jesus often works, His plans are better than my own.

As I reflect on my brief time with the MC sisters and the small LMC group, I thought of my own spiritual practice, and how sometimes, it requires a nudge to “do it anyway.” Like the MC sisters, LMCs are required to participate in a variety of spiritual practices, such as praying the Angelus and praying some hours from the Liturgy of Hours. Sometimes, this can be taxing, and quite frankly, seem like an intrusion into my busy schedule. Reflecting on my entry into this new “school of love” with the LMCs, I present an updated version of the oft-quoted and oft-attributed Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway. 

Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

Praying the Angelus will often seem a chore at noon, when your schedule is crammed packed. Pray it anyway.

Going to Mass during the week will be tedious and cause you to alter your life. Go to weekday Mass anyway.

Reading the Daily Readings may seem useless when your mind is filled with cares and worries. Read it anyway.

People will think you’re exclusive when you preach and offer them the message of Christ. Evangelize them anyway.

Your friends may not understand your joy when the world seems to crumble around you. Radiate joy anyway.

Praying for your enemies may enrage you and cultivate more anger for a brief time. Pray for them anyway.

Reaching out to the poor will require you to pour out yourself, sometimes more than you want. Reach out anyway.


May God bless you as we enter 2019. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Ways to Sneak in the Rosary

As women, we’re busy.

By the nature of our birth and biology, we are often saddled with the struggles and joys of family life and our careers. As a result, our prayers lives are often inhibited or may gradually disappear as we sink deeper into the secular demands of our lives. It’s easy and I’m sure many of us have struggled with this balance of prayer and everyday life.

Of course, our spiritual lives and our everyday lives are often interwoven. We pray over our meals, place an icon in our work cubicle, pray the Angelus at noon, or keep holy water in our cars. Yet, too often, it’s easy to keep our faith on the shelf as we work about our daily lives. How can we, as modern women with more demands than ever, possibly achieve sainthood in such a hectic world? I believe the key lies in the recitation of the Holy Rosary.

The Power, and Struggle, of the Rosary

From personal experience and from the study of the lives of saints, I am convinced that the Rosary is one of the most powerful prayers that we can pray. In my own devotional practice, I can attest that the Rosary has brought grace and peace that I’ve never known before. It’s no surprise that many Catholics that we now know as saints possessed a great devotion to this prayer.

However, praying the rosary is TOUGH.

Think about it: The Rosary is 53 Hail Marys, over 5 Our Fathers and Fatima Prayers, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Hail Holy Queen. All together, praying the Rosary can take anywhere between 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast you pray. For many busy women, 5 minutes of quiet time, much less 30, is a struggle to find.

I found this to be true when I first began praying the Rosary.

Often, I found myself zoned out after the first decade, especially when listening to a recitation on a podcast or prerecorded track. I found myself looking around the church or at my surroundings, wondering what I could do next. I couldn’t sit still for too long, as my mind started to go to other places between each Hail Mary. It was hard, and I did well to pray the Rosary once a week.

The Benefits of the Rosary

However, in October 2017 I encountered the Chews Life Rosary Challenge. Essentially, the challenge encouraged email subscribers to pray the Rosary everyday for 30 days –  a month. Long-story-short: This challenge rocked my world. Sins I struggled with? The desires fell away. A sense of anxiety? Slowly dissipated.

Now, I don’t say this to prescribe the Rosary as some magical charm. Just because one takes up the practice of praying the Rosary doesn’t mean her problems will disappear or that her mental anguish will fall away. Rather, I do suggest that the Rosary infuses a wonderful grace in our lives that may have been unknown before. This is why I suggest it as a daily devotion for Catholics – especially women.

But, with a prayer as lengthy and repetitious as the Rosary, how can a busy woman possible make time for it?  I also struggled with this – out of the lack of time or from sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. Mistakenly, I thought that a Rosary had to be prayed in one sitting, but it doesn’t. You can pray the Rosary one Hail Mary or Our Father at a time at any time and any place.

Sneaking in a Prayer

Here are just a few ways to sneak in an entire Rosary into your busy schedule. As it turns out, you can pray a whole Rosary while you:

  1. Walk/drive/commute to work.
  2. Wash the dishes.
  3. Change your child’s diaper.
  4. Rake the leaves.
  5. Jog/bike/exercise.
  6. Eat your lunch at your desk.
  7. Bake a cake.
  8. Patch up an old pair of pants.
  9. Stand in line at the bank.
  10. Walk the halls of your workplace.
  11. Run to the supermarket.

The beauty of the Rosary is not confined to silence and adoration chapels. Rather, the Rosary is a reflection of our living faith as Catholic women in an ever-changing world. As you reflect on the mysteries of the Rosary, rather it is the Transfiguration or the Annuciation, you remember the active work of Christ as He walked the earth. Our Catholic faith is a vibrant, living faith, so it only makes sense that one of our hallmark prayers should be one of vibrant love and hope.


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I pray that you were moved by the love of Christ in some way. If you enjoyed this post, please consider liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter or Instagram, or subscribing via WordPress or email, or dropping me a line at sarahquelpart@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from, and connect, with you.

To Jesus through Mary,

Sarah 

10 Quotes from St. Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Women”

Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Pope John Paul II. Like many young Catholics, my first experiences with the papacy included this dearly beloved saint. Though I was not Catholic during John Paul’s pontificate, I did appreciate the impact he had on the world around him. Now as a Catholic, I have admired his Letter to Womenpublished on June 29, 1995, prior to the Fourth World Conference on Women.

For those who argue that the Church is behind the times in matters of gender and sexuality, they would be hard-pressed to find any signs of the oppression of women in this historical document. Rather, the Letter to Women is a vibrant celebration of women from all walks and stations of life. In honor of St. Pope John Paul II, here are ten great quotes from his monumental letter (bold text mine):

  1. “Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.
  2. “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a womanThrough the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”
  3. “Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness. In this way he honoured the dignity which women have always possessed according to God’s plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this Second Millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: how much of his message has been heard and acted upon?”
  4. “We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift.”
  5. “The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.”
  6. “Were I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless.”
  7. “It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the ‘genius of women‘, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church.”
  8. “The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth.”
  9. “…from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history.”
  10. “Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives.”

St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.