Monday, March 30, 2015

I Was Accepted to JP Catholic's Grad School!

Just a quick post to share the good news: I was accepted to John Paul the Great Catholic University's Theology grad program! From now, I'm going to refer to it as JP Catholic because the name is so long. ;) I received the news earlier this morning but I've been busy so I haven't had a chance to blog about it until now.

Now that I've received all three grad admissions decisions (I was accepted to Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and JP Catholic) I can officially say that I've decided to attend JP Catholic this upcoming fall. The courses/program, the finances, the location (I'll be able to drive down for events since it's only 2-3 hours south from L.A.)... everything fell into place for JP Catholic.

I'll be completely honest, the fact that they took a cue from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (whom I unashamedly fangirl over) on what should be studied when they created the program pretty much sold me on the school. After seeing the courses required for the Master's degree, I knew this school was the perfect fit for me. I'll be doing it online since I'm needed in L.A. for the foreseeable future but I look forward to attending any events they have, something I couldn't have done at Christendom or Franciscan. 

That's the big news that I had been hoping/waiting to share. I'd like to thank everyone who prayed for me and especially those who either wrote letters of recommendation (or called on my behalf) to all three schools. I am beyond blessed to have amazing support from y'all. :)

I probably won't blog again until after Easter Sunday so I hope you have a fruitful Holy Week. :) I wrote my Lenten reflection post yesterday in case you missed it. ;)

And that's it for now. :) As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lenten Reflection: St. Therese and Little Ways

Before anyone gets on my case about not having the statues covered, I would like to say that this is a picture of the roses I got for my book cave on St. Therese's feast day last year. ;)

This year, Lent has been both incredibly rewarding and intensely challenging in ways that I never would've imagined. I felt as if I had a friend in St. Therese, whose meditations for Lent (which I read using this book; same book I've used for the past five years).

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while know that I consider St. Therese a good friend. When I was at my uber liberal "Catholic" alma mater, I used a strand of her sacrifice beads during lectures because sometimes the professors wouldn't allow anyone to speak up to challenge what they would "teach." When I had a particularly bad day (and I had a few of those junior and senior year of undergrad), I used to cry in the darkened chapel on campus and then, when I'd gotten the tears under control, I would walk over to the alcove that has a St. Therese statue. "For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever," I used to remind myself before I had to get to my next lecture.

Over the years, I've found myself asking her for her intercession quite often. For school matters, vocation uncertainties, and other moments of weakness and doubt... and not just for myself. I once asked her to help two good guy friends figure out their vocations and they both ended up entering seminary (at the same time) last fall. :D While I've cut back on the asking for intercession (mostly because I've learned to let go and just wait to see what God has in store for me), St. Therese is still very much a constant friend in my life. This Lent was no exception.

As I've written over the past couple of weeks, I've had to endure some pretty difficult things. I saw the end of a wonderful friendship. I had a scary moment regarding my health that ended with me being taken to the ER. (side note: I'm fine. It was just a bad stomach virus and GERD that ended up triggering a bad panic attack as well; some of the symptoms were similar to those found in women when they have heart attacks.) I had some really spiritually dry days on which I didn't even want to pray and I struggled to get through the Rosary and/or prayers because of that dryness. Despite this, St. Therese's words helped remind me that Jesus Christ endured worse things; that sometimes we're asked to go through times of difficulty and that we must simply trust Him.

My biggest reward of this Lenten season was figuring out why I've always felt a kinship with St. Therese. This past week I found myself in awe of how eloquently someone expressed their beliefs. With only a few words, they were able to sum up our beliefs (as Catholics) beautifully. It's quite intimidating but, instead of being envious, I thanked God for giving that person that gift because they are undoubtedly inspiring people who have lukewarm faith (or no faith at all) to learn more about it. They certainly inspired me to look into a couple of things that I have yet to tackle on my journey to better understand our faith. As much as I wish I could express myself as well as they do, I've learned that my ways are much simpler. Enter St. Therese.

I think the reason why I've always felt close to St. Therese is because I've been able to identify with her and her little ways. I'm well aware that my words when speaking about the faith are simplistic compared to great apologists. My words come from the heart, out of love for our faith and God. When I read and learn something new, I internalize it. I like to think that I have the academic Dominican desire to learn and teach as many souls as I can but I have a Carmelite heart that internalizes things that steadily makes my love for God grow. (side note: this is why it's taken me so long to discern whether I want to be a lay Dominican or a lay Carmelite.) When it comes time to express myself, I tend to use the same words I use when speaking to a friend; uncomplicated and personal. That's always been my style though I hadn't realized it until this past week.

I'm not sure if a more formal education (read: grad school courses which will be focused on teaching the faith to others) will change the way I speak to others but I am grateful for what I've been able to do for God and His kingdom with my little ways. I may not be a great public speaker (I blush and stutter when the focus is on me) and I may not put myself out there as much as some of the great Catholic speakers do, but I try to do what I can in my little way. Thank you, St. Therese, for reminding me that "all the flowers God has created are beautiful" and that "if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers."

Anyway, I just wanted to share this. I'm hoping to be offline for most of Holy Week. Correction: I will be checking messages and replying but I'm hoping to cut back on the unnecessary/procrastinating/time wasting that I do when I have writer's block or am simply bored. That is my intent. Unless I get news from JP Catholic (aka admissions decision), this may be my only blog post this week. Don't quote me on this because sometimes I try to take breaks from the internet and then the Holy Spirit inspires me to write 2-3 posts in a single week. lol.

I hope y'all have a blessed Holy Week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :D

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Was Accepted to Franciscan's Grad School!

Just a quick post for y'all who are off social media but are following the blog: I've been officially accepted to Franciscan University of Steubenville's Theology and Christian Ministry graduate program. Man, that's a mouthful. I was actually accepted two weeks ago but an error in mailing address prevented me from receiving the news earlier. Good thing I called last week to inquire about it or else I would've still not known. lol.

Technically, it's conditional because the courses I took at my alma mater (for my Religious Studies BA) were insufficient to begin the Master's program; I'd have to wait and take a couple of undergrad courses before I could officially begin the program. This is no surprise because the courses I took at my uber liberal "Catholic" alma mater were bunk. Let's be honest, I didn't learn anything except how much people love to trash the Church. Oh, and that they really give you the stink eye if you wear a chapel veil/mantilla to a Mass on-campus. Oh, alma mater... I miss the stink eye and the making me cry in class because I was the campus "traddie." lol. Kidding!

Yep, that's my news for now. I've been accepted to Christendom College, FUS, and now I'll await to hear from JP the Great Catholic University before making my decision on where I'm headed this upcoming Fall. I do have my first choice school and all of that but I'm waiting until everything gets back (as it's always been my plan, since I first applied). :D

And now back to your regularly scheduled procrastinating online. ;)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lessons From Elusive St. Joseph

I took this picture of the sculpture of St. Joseph and the child Jesus at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels here in L.A. :)

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His feast day this year is of particular importance to me because it's the first one I can honestly say that -- despite years of being elusive to me -- I can thank him for coming through for me (through his intercession) in a big way.

As you've read in the title, I've had a hard time really understanding St. Joseph in the past. Every time I thought about learning as much as I could about him (which isn't too much since very little is known about him and his life), I'd get sidetracked and/or another saint would come to mind. This was the same pattern I had for years, until doubt came to mind and I began to understand St. Joseph a bit more.

I don't remember exactly what I was questioning at the time (odds are that it was either about my vocation or my career path) but I remember feeling unsettled by the indecision and doubt I had. "Who is the patron saint against doubt?" St. Joseph, of course. That set off my curiosity on St. Joseph once again... and my journey to understanding him a little better.

There's not much known about St. Joseph but what is known about him speaks volumes. He was the holy spouse of our Blessed Mother and the adoptive father of Jesus, a role that couldn't have been filled by just anyone. I'm sure there are a number of incredibly qualities (unknown to man) that St. Joseph possessed to have been chosen as the man worthy of protecting both Mama Mary and a young Jesus. That got me thinking about my own future spouse. I don't know who he will be but I pray for him. I ask St. Joseph to intercede, not only to help me find a good, holy husband who will bring me and our future children closer to God, but to help him become a man who is willing to do God's will and to love Him more than he loves anyone or anything else, myself included.

Everyone has had or will have doubts in their lives. Life is so uncertain that it's unavoidable. The biggest thing I've learned from St. Joseph is to let go. He was put in a situation in which indecision and doubt was present but he knew that he had to trust in God while protecting his family. How many men (or women) can say that; that they're put in situations that seem impossible yet they surrender that fear and indecision and trust in God's guidance? It's becoming more and more rare these days. You know how I've been trying to do just this (learning to let go of things) for months? I think I've finally gotten to where I need to be in terms of simply trusting God to guide me down the path he wants me to go on.

These past couple of weeks (starting a few weeks before Lent), I've felt like God has been leading me down an unexpected (and way overdue, due to my past fear and stubbornness) path but I completely trust Him. From applying to a new grad school and considering a new career path (with a Master's in Theology still in the cards, hence the application to another orthodox Catholic university) to moving forward with my vocation (after being stuck for quite some time), something exciting is happening but I'm not going to try to figure things out. I'm going to let God be my guide. No impatience, no fear, no doubts... just trust, hope, faith, and lots of prayer.

So, to sum it all up, I would like to thank St. Joseph for all he's taught me this year... and for the prayers (some of which I didn't mention) that he's helped me with. I only scratched the surface in this post but I'm trying to keep my blog posts relatively short so this is all you're getting this time around. ;)

That's all for today. Mom's pulling a double shift at work so I'm going to go have a late lunch with her before her next shift begins. :)

I hope y'all are having a great week thus far. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why I Decided to Be a (Catholic) YA/New Adult Author

Recently I've been re-reading the books that I read as a teenager and a young adult. Yes, I'm still technically a young adult at 29 but I'm talking about my early to mid 20s. If you're following me on Goodreads, you know which books I've re-read... and have re-rated. Part of the reason why I'm re-reading the books is due to nostalgia and the other part is research. Both When Two Worlds Collide and London Calling are considered New Adult books so I'm curious to the kinds of stories other YA/New Adult authors write. The research has led me to the decision to be a "Catholic author."

Most of the books I'm re-reading were read prior my reversion... and I have to remind myself of that fact whenever I read something that makes me cringe. I made it only 28 pages into the first book in a series I used to like because I couldn't stomach the protagonist of the series. It's unlike me to not finish a book but I couldn't continue. The main character becomes mortified over the fact that she wasn't aware that she was being sexually harassed by her best friend's older brother... but she's upset over the "clueless" moment rather than the act itself. She also comments that she wishes that her crush would actually sexually harass her. A few pages later she expresses disappointment that the only guy to ever "feel her up" was a blind man and not someone else worthy of the act. *headdesk* Please. Stop.

A big reason why I decided to become a (Catholic) YA author is because I've heard friends lament over the fact that they can't find contemporary YA novels that aren't saturated with questionable content that goes against Church teachings... or outright drags them through the mud. I've had friends who have teenage daughters express disappointment over the content that it out there for their daughters. I had these comments in mind when I edited the first Will and Lina novel and wrote the second one. Spoiler alert: I infused Faith into the books for obvious reasons... though I tried to do it in a way that wasn't preachy.

When I started writing, I didn't set out to be a "Catholic author." I just wanted to write books... even if no one but my friends read them. As my novels progressed, I knew that no one could deny that I was a Catholic writer. Catholicism is infused into the stories, even if it's not immediately obvious. I'm nowhere near the likes of Catholic authors like G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, Dean Koontz, or even Regina Doman (who has written great YA novels). However, I've made the decision to be the kind of author that young women (and, really, anyone) could read without having to worry about content that would go against Church teachings. Sure, some characters do some really shady things (for those who've read the first novel, one word: Candace) but even through the bad times, there's a light present.

I know the fact that I've chosen to be identified as a Catholic YA author means I've already alienated many readers, but I'm okay with it. I'd rather lose readers who would rather not "deal" with Catholicism in their novels than risk leading others down the wrong path (a path away from God) for the sake of making money or becoming popular. If it goes against Church teachings it's either not going into the novels or will be dealt with according to our beliefs. If I would never say it to my nieces, nephews, or my godson, it won't make it into the novels. There's already too much garbage around and I refuse to contribute to it.

For those of you who are worried that the novels will be preachy, I can tell you that I hope to never do that. Like I said, Catholicism is infused into the novels but sometimes the themes are not glaringly obvious. Sometimes the theme is on mercy and redemption. Sometimes a character is Catholic and they attend Mass in the story before they do something else. See? Nothing too "believe this, you heathen!" about it. lol. I'm not going to shove my beliefs down people's throats but I'm not going to shy away from the fact that I believe certain things. Seriously, just ask anyone who's read one or both of my novels.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this. Originally I was going to write about all the cringe-worthy things I'd read in YA novels but 1) it wouldn't have been very charitable of me and 2) I'd really rather use my money to pay for grad school than to pay off lawsuits from miffed authors. lol. ;)

I hope y'all had a great weekend and have a stellar week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lenten Diaries: Reluctantly Letting Go

The radio silence hasn't been because I've been enjoying the silence (though I have...). No, it was because I hit a serious case of writer's block. I wasn't even working on my new novel. Thankfully I was hit with inspiration last night so here we are again... and with a topic that is hard for me to write about.

As I said in the previous blog post, this Lenten season has been incredible for me. I've been able to figure out some things I'd been dealing with for years (one of them being tied to my vocation)... but one of them is going to come at a great price. I'm not sure I'm going to give details on it but know that it's something I'm doing reluctantly.

When I'm saying that I'm doing it "reluctantly", I'm not saying that I don't want to do it... it's just going to be extremely hard to do it. My head (logic) says that it's for the best. My heart (emotion) wants to find an excuse not to let go. However, I think I've gotten a good sign from God that it's what's best for me and I can't fight what He wants.

While praying the Sorrowful Mysteries a week ago, Matthew 5:30 kept popping up in my mind.

"And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell."

The more I tried to focus on Sorrowful Mysteries, the more it kept popping up in my mind. In detail. There was an inner dialogue happening as I continued praying the Sorrowful Mysteries. I would put up an excuse, and the verse would continue repeating itself in my mind with the reason why my excuse was not good enough. "No, Emmy. Listen, I know it's going to be hard but you need to do it. You've endured it for years. Just let go. Your soul depends on it." Yes, I'm serious... the words "your soul depends on it" also repeatedly popping up in my mind.

I talked to my spiritual director this past week about it. I told him the situation (which has been on-going for years) and about how the verse and the words kept popping up while I was praying. He gave me a smile. Yes, I have to listen to the inner dialogue that popped into my mind while I prayed. There's a reason why it kept playing out during the Rosary. A lot of sins (even if venial) were caused by this situation. Perfecting timing with Lent and the focus on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Even though I know it's going to be emotionally taxing on me, I'm going to do it because it will be good for me. I've surrendered my wants. I'm not going to do what I want if it's not in line with what God wants from me... and this one thing doesn't seem to be what God wants from me.

Sorry for the vagueness but the situation involves another person so, out of respect for the other person, I couldn't be more detailed. I would like to ask y'all to please pray for those who will be involved because it's going to be hard for everyone.

That's it for today. Trust me, this wasn't easy for me to write but I felt compelled to share it with y'all. Don't be afraid to embrace God's will for you... even if it's going to be hard on your end. The eternal rewards are worth more than the temporal (and temporary) relief.

And now I'm going to try to eat some more. I have a stomach virus (for which I ended up in the ER yesterday... that was not fun) and need to get some of my strength back. BRAT diet (in foodie style), come to mama!

I hope y'all have a great weekend! Get your tushes to confession if it's been a while. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Oh So Quiet

So far this Lent has been unlike any other I've ever had. I actually started my Lenten "penances" (giving up certain social media and instant messengers for a certain about of time) before Lent and I've already seen it do wonders for my mental well being. It's still too early to talk about this but I will closer to the end of Lent. Not only has giving these things up been good for me... I've also learned that silence has been golden.

As I previously mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of silence. I have to have some sort of noise going on in the background, even if it's a white noise app playing softly. If music is playing, that would be ideal, but chatter, a TV show (or movie), or, really, any sort of noise is usually preferred. However, the deeper we get into Lent, the more I'm learning to not only like silence but also treasure quiet moments. (side note: the introvert in me is ecstatic over this since my life had been too noisy lately.)

I'm seeing big results due to my attempts to "quiet down" some parts of my life. Busy social media presence was too noisy so I've attempted to curve a lot of that and it's been great thus far. I've been listening to the radio / music less when driving in the car; I even forget to turn on the radio at times! At night I will set aside at least an hour of reading (after prayers, which also involve more quiet time) before I go to sleep. Last night: I finished an entire 231 page book in a little over 4 hours and it was fantastic. I lost sleep but it was still good. ;) Not only has quieting the outside world been great for me, it's been fantastic for my interior castle (as St. Teresa of Avila might've said).

I've noticed some big changes in me since I implemented some of the decisions I made prior to and during Lent. Big changes that I'm sure have left my own mother surprised... which is hard to do. I can't explain it but something inside has changed. I can pinpoint what decision I made that has made this change and all I can say (for now) is that it's opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities... and I feel like I'm finally really quiet enough to listen to what God has probably been trying to say to me for a long time.

Last night I had a wonderful conversation with a young woman who (despite being nearly a decade younger than I am) inspires me to be a better person and a more faithful Catholic. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words to say to her. At the end, I felt -- deep down -- that it was just a confirmation of something I've been thinking about for a long time: working with youth and young adults in a church setting. I'm not sure if it means I'll work in some sort of youth ministry or if I'm being prepared to work at a school but helping young Catholics seems to be my calling. I've had little moments in which I've felt certain but never have I ever felt as certain (and at peace) as I did last night. Like I said, I'm not sure in what capacity but I'm so excited to see what God has in store for me. And all of this because I quieted down another part of my life which would've made this nearly 1-2 hour conversation impossible to have in the first place.

So, yes, silence has been wonderful... and it's been challenging. Without going into too much detail, I'm sure my need for more silence hasn't been a popular decision with others but it's been something I should've done years ago. I needed to do it for myself. I feel as if it's broken the arid spell I was having in my prayer life and *bonus* it's made me feel closer to God -- something I haven't felt in a really, really long time. Silence, the Lenten St. Therese book, and the Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries book have been my good friends this Lent... and it's only the beginning. If this is the only thing I get out of this Lenten season, I would say it's been a successful one.

Anyway, just wanted to share this. I would write more except... well, I wouldn't have anything to share later on, now would I? ;) That and I have to go pick up my mom from work. lol.

I hope y'all are having a good week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spiritual Motherhood

This past week I attempted to finish reading Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries by Ferdinand Holbeck. I say "attempted" because, at the time that I write this, I'm still about 60+ pages away from finishing the 501 page book. Yes, that's right: 501 pages long. It's taken me about a year and a half to finish since I've read it in chunks but it's been so worth it because I've learned a lot from the saints and blessed (and other inspirational people) featured in the book.

One of the biggest things that I've taken out of this book is that it's further confirmed that my vocation is that of wife and mother. I don't know when it's going to happen but, God willing, it's going to happen some day and this book has truly inspired me to be the best wife and mama that I can be while trying to get my future fella and my future babies to heaven.

While I'm not exactly in "Ugh, I hate being single. Where the heck is my future fella? Did he get off on the wrong exit and is refusing to ask for directions?" mode, the wait can be a bit trying at times. I'm patient... but I'm also nearing the end of my 20s so it makes me wonder how much longer I will have to wait. The wonderful thing about this book is that it's made me realize that I already have a head start in the motherhood department.

I've read about how many saints who didn't have children of their own (for a number of reasons, including Josephite marriages) still had "children" whom they took care of. Some were supported financially and others spiritually. The idea of spiritual motherhood reminded me of my little man (my godson, Neil Flynn) whom I love so much... and made me realize that it does help with the "not yet a wife nor mama" pains we single ladies can sometimes feel.

When Alli and Dustin asked me to be the godmother of their newest baby (before we knew that my godson was going to be a godson and not a goddaughter), I was so excited. I'd always wanted to be a godmother and I love babies so being asked to a godmother was one of the best moments in my life thus far. While I won't be able to see my little man as often as I'd like (I live on the West Coast and the Fabers are East Coast-headed-to-South), I'm going to try to do all that I can for that little boy.

I may not be financially well off but I have love to spare and I'm going to make sure he's on the receiving end of it. What I can't materially give him, I can do it spiritually. At random times in the day, I've caught myself asking God to bless him. I pray for him (and his parents and big sister, Lucy). I'm also asking God to please help me be a good godmother to him because I have no idea what a godmother is supposed to do. Well, no, I know what we're supposed to do (help him grow spiritually as he grows up) but I don't know how to do it from a distance. I do plan on seeing him whenever I can afford to (financially and time-wise) but I know that, for a while, we'll still be separated by a couple thousand miles. Madrina will be praying for him (and his family) every single day. I will try to live my life in a way that will be a good example to him so that, when he grows, he can be inspired to grow closer to God. It'll be a learning experience as Neil Flynn is my first "baby" but I'm excited to learn and grow along with him.

Anyway, I just felt like sharing this with y'all... and especially you single ladies. Don't let the pains of singlehood (especially for those over the age of 25) get to you. There's so many ways we can be spiritual mothers, including to our nieces, nephews, children of our friends, and even priests. :D

Alright, I'm trying to limit my time online so that's it for me for now.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and that you have a great start of week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D