Tuesday, 19 March 2019

We Belong to Each Other

This morning I was waiting at a train station (something one does a lot of when one has a fiancé in a different city) and contemplating the early morning masses of humanity going about their day. A few feet away from me was a group of men and women, squatting on the ground close to the train tracks. Their voices were raised in raucous banter and laughter, and they seemed to me unfamiliar and uncouth.

But as I watched them, I remembered something I saw recently as a response to the Christchurch shooting. It was a quote from Mother Teresa that said:

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

It was easy for me to read that quote, and nod sententiously. "Yes, those people have forgotten that we belong to each other, that we are responsible for each other, that the 'other' is not the enemy. When will they learn?" It can be hard for me to understand how anyone can reach a place where they could even consider wanting to end the life of another. I'm not like that.

But this morning as I looked at those people, I realized it starts with suspicion, with fear. And I too was also looking at them as 'the other', foreign to me, strange to me, and disconnected with my life and my reality. I stepped back and looked at my own subconscious prejudices. I look at people who seem educated or dressed like me as more valuable, more connected with me. And the others? They weren't mine. I was more likely to look at them with suspicion, watch my bags, keep my distance.

In that moment, I tried to look at them differently. Sure, they were loud, they related to each other differently than I would relate to my friends or family. But though they had come from a different world than mine, they were also just waiting for a train. They felt hungry, tired and thirsty. They had common jokes and friends they could joke around with. They had hopes, and desires, and fears, and problems.

And on a deeper level, they were made by the same God who loved me into being and has been directing my life. They were as worthy of love and salvation as I was. They were made for love, as I was.

If Jesus is true for anyone anywhere, then Jesus is true for everyone everywhere.

And if that is true, that has an impact on the way I see and treat people. They are no longer disconnected, unrelated to me. They are mine too, as they are His.

What about those who are not just innocent bystanders going about their own lives? What if they are BAD PEOPLE? What about the man in the train staring at me a little too long? What about the aggressive beggars? What about those who treat me with suspicion because of my faith? Even those who don't consider themselves MY friends, who may want to cheat me, or abuse me, or just ignore me - those too are my brothers and sisters. It doesn't mean I support or excuse evil. But I still see the perpetrator as salvageable, as one who deep down is made for good, made for love, made for heaven. If Christianity is all about redemption, then we have no enemies of flesh and blood. If we fight, we fight with weapons of love. We are not overcome by evil. but we overcome evil with good. And all those who do the same, are connected with the same God of love.

"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Matt 5:47

One morning's reflection won't change everything, but it's a start.

Stretch my heart, Lord, so I can love as you love, so I can see the world as You see it. Let peace begin with me.

Monday, 11 March 2019

I Found Out Why I'm Furious!

Just kidding, I'm rarely furious. I do however have a variety of other emotions, which pop up randomly and derail my peace of mind and heart. What do I do when that happens? Well, typically, I look at my calendar to check what time of month it is. Hormones can affect a lot, as many women and the people they are closest to know all too well. (Pro tip: Kindly inform your family members and significant others about when PMS is due for holier and happier relationships.)

But sometimes it isn't about hormones.

Have you ever had something happen to you, something seemingly small, a comment, an interaction, a change in plans, that seem to release a disproportionate flood of emotions?

Okay I realize I'm being too vague. Here are some real life examples.

Auntie: Did you notice that you have pimples on your face? You should try (some home remedy).
Friend: [WAVE OF ANGER that she is able to hold in briefly before venting at me]
Me: Yeah, you know aunties sometimes make personal comments, I'm sure she doesn't realize that it's rude.
Friend (practically in tears): That's not an excuse! What a horrible thing to say! I can't take any more of these rude personal comments about my appearance and my weight!

Some team member or person I'm working with: Hey Sue. We need to talk.
Me: (Outwardly) Okay. Let me know when.

Someone: (Raises their voice and accuses me of something, unfair or not).
Me: (Shaky mess and shaky voice and internal withdrawal but trying not to show it)

They're called triggers and we all have them. Something someone says or does makes us feel threatened, scared, rejected, abandoned, unsafe, ashamed, embarrassed, alone. Sometimes it's the things someone DOESN'T do that trigger negative emotions. Sometimes it's a mild criticism, an insult, someone's opinion or attitude, sometimes even the expression on someone's face.

Where do these negative emotions come from?

Typically it is connected with some wound from the past. Maybe we experienced rejection and criticism from our parents when we were children (the ones who should have made us feel safe and accepted), and now everything makes us feel rejected and criticized. Maybe we were emotionally or physically abused. Maybe we were in a relationship where we were consistently humiliated and disrespected. It could make us feel touchy and overly sensitive, and hear disrespect everywhere. Sometime we may not even remember the original wound, but that doesn't stop us from experiencing its effects.

So what do we typically do with these emotions?

Some of us run away from the situation or person that has triggered them. It can make our circle smaller and smaller because whenever you get close to people it starts happening.

Some of us blame the other person for MAKING us feel that way. "That is not the way" as we say in India. If only that person had behaved more respectfully, sensitively, I would not be having these emotions.

Some of us allow anger and hurt to harden into resentment as we close ourselves off from the person or people who were involved.

Some of us resort to self-shaming and self-blame and come to the conclusion that we are horrible people in every possible way and we deserve to feel that way.

Some of us just think that this is normal life and losing your temper all the time, or regularly feeling fearful or anxious, or having angry confrontations are just the the side effects of being human.

But I want to let you into a secret that may change everything-

God desires us to maintain our peace of heart no matter what, and if God desires it, then it is possible.

So what do we do with all these trigger and emotions that seems to influence so much of our lives and interactions? How do we rediscover peace of mind and peace of heart?

1. Acknowledge that they exist. We need to be able to have the humility to admit that sometimes our emotions are disproportionate to the situation.* Not everything is someone else's fault. Blaming others is a sure way to never start the healing process, or any kind of change or growth.

2. Accept those emotions without identifying with them. Alright, I'm feeling ashamed. But my emotions are not ME. They are just something I'm experiencing. Now what?

3. Be willing to examine them. 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' I've mentioned the Ignatian particular Examen before, but basically this is what it comes down to - a. Step away from the situation. b. Thank God for three specific things. c. Ask the Holy Spirit to examine the depths of your soul. Ask yourself 'Why am I reacting this way? Does this reflect the truth of the situation?' d. Ask God to help you react differently next time. DO THIS EVERY TIME! Journal about it so you remember.

4. Share your conclusions with a spiritual director and/or someone close to you. We often need someone to help us remember the truth.

5. Ask God for healing from the memories or past trauma or wounds that are affecting your current ability to relate to the world. Forgive the people who have wounded you. Speak the truth and the bible verses that remind you of the truth often. (Very often mine is - "God is God and I am not. I am not in charge of everyone else's happiness, holiness and safety - God is. There is no problem too big for God to handle.")

6. Be patient with yourself. You're not the only one. We are all broken and wounded, and sometimes it takes a while to become whole.

7. Be quick to apologize. Even if your negative emotions and reactions stem from past wounds, they still have the ability to hurt the people around you. And if you're willing to apologize and share what's going on, the people close to you will be able to walk with you and be patient with you when you slip up. They may even be able to try to avoid your triggers.

8. Resolve not to act out of your emotions: Just because you're FEELING angry or defensive or scared or resentful, doesn't mean you need to speak angry or defensive or fearful or resentful words. Take some time to respond if you can't respond well in the moment.

For freedom Christ has set us free. But most of us continue to live in slavery to the lies and wounds of the past. Lent is a time for returning to the Lord with all our hearts. It's not always about something we can do for Christ, but allowing Him to do what He wants to do in us.

*That means sometimes negative emotions are useful - if you really are in danger, your emotions may be an indicator that something is very wrong.

Related Reading and Podcasts

Back to the Basics: Lenses and Triggers - Way of the Heart podcast (only 27 minutes)

How Not to Be an Emotional Wreck All the Time (yeah, so, funny story, I wrote this entire blog post before realizing I wrote a very similar post a few weeks ago. Oh well, if I forgot, maybe you did too.)

Identifying Our Triggers

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Seven Rookie Lenten Mistakes

Yes, yes, everyone is posting about Lent, but what to do. I'm Catholic, it's the day before Ash Wednesday, I'm home alone and there are no pancakes to enjoy Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Tuesday), so I may as well eat snacks and blog about LENT!

Whether you're super-Catholic, Catholic but not obsessively so, a non-Catholic Christian who appreciates the roots of the Lenten disciplines, or even a non-Christian who likes the idea of Lent, you may have been thinking of doing something to commemorate this season. What's wrong with getting some discipline in your life, right? But here are some ways you CAN do it wrong.


Giving up things to feel good about yourself

The whole point of Lent is to turn back to God. If giving up stuff just gives us a pleasant sense of accomplishment, then perhaps we should rethink why we're doing what we're doing. Our egos are so good at feeding themselves on seemingly good things. I've found that one way to combat this is to give up something that sounds stupid to other people, but which you know you need, like giving up staying up late playing video games, or giving up using cuss words when you're on the roads. "What, you need to wait till LENT to give those up?" Whatever, lady, you don't know my weaknesses. But you're unlikely to boast about those things, even to yourself.


Giving up things only to replace them with other things

Classic mistake - give up Facebook, and become a Youtube addict. Give up movies and get hooked on novels. We're just replacing one addictive time-wasting habit with another. Instead, make sure you are not just taking something away, but putting something good in. Every time I feel the hunger, the ache of missing this thing, I will read a few lines of a spiritual book, or say a decade of the Rosary and intercede for someone, or listen to a Gospel song, or listen to a Christian podcast.


Giving up things as a matter of habit

Ah, it's Lent, time to put away the alcohol and give up meat. Though there is nothing wrong with those particular sacrifices, the danger of doing it out of habit, is that it stops cutting through our layers of sin and reaching our hearts. Any religious practise can lose it's power if we start treating it casually or with indifference. Instead ask God, 'What are the parts of my heart that need to change and come back to you? How can I cut away the things that are stopping me from living a more intentionally loving life?'


Being really vague about Lenten practices

This year for Lent, I'm going to give up negativity and selfishness. Wonderful! And how are you planning to do that? A lot of people have been sharing Pope Francis' quote about giving up indifference for Lent, saying that our fast from alcohol or candy won't make a difference unless it helps more than yourself. But it may be easy to use that as an excuse NOT to give up anything concrete, or to do anything that is hard on our own mortal flesh. But fasting from harsh words and fasting from food are connected. We are embodied spirits, so when we give up something that we feel a physical desire for, it helps weaken our attachment to mental, emotional and spiritually harmful acts as well. It is basically learning to say no to yourself for a greater good, something most of us don't do very often.


Forgetting that Lent is about fasting AND prayer AND almsgiving

With all the cool lists of innovative things to give up, we can get overly focussed on what we're giving up, and forget that we should be paying as much attention to coming back to God through our prayer and almsgiving. Of course, all three are connected. We give up unhealthy attachments to the short-term satisfaction of food, drink, and leisure in order to give our hearts more fully to and find a deeper joy in God, and He moves us to pour ourselves out for others, like He did. John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”


Doing things that are too easy or too hard

The best practices to choose are the ones you hear God calling you to in prayer, and that are hard enough that they push you and stretch you, but not so hard that they break you. If you're not feeling your sacrifice at all, and not even missing the thing you gave up, maybe you should take on something more. I read a cool idea - ask yourself to complete this sentence: "I am a good Christian except when...." and you will find the area you need to work on.


Being more focussed on your personal Lenten plan that you miss God's plan for you this Lent

If giving up coffee makes you bad-tempered with your annoying kids, then perhaps consider the possibility that God is asking you to give up your sacrifice for the sake of your family. If an unexpected suffering just happens to you this Lent, perhaps in the form of sickness, pregnancy, a family crisis, anxiety or depression, homesickness, or any other unexpected and uncontrollable factor that makes life a little harder to live, consider embracing that suffering as your Lenten sacrifice and offering it up for the sake of others, rather than feeling frustrated because you haven't taken on any REAL Lenten disciplines. The best sacrifice you can offer to the Lord is the sacrifice of your own plans and will. It is also the hardest sacrifice to make. But the Lord always gives us His sweet gift of peace in return.

Have a holy, grace-filled Lent! 'Lent comes providentially, to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.' Pope Francis. I pray that we will all be awake, living fully the life we were called to live.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Relationships Stage 5: Intentional Discernment or Courtship

Continuing the Stages of a Relationship series.
Stage 1: Fall in Love with Jesus
Stage 2: The Search
Stage 3: The 'Talking' Stage
Stage 4: The Dating Stage

Stage 5: Intentional Discernment or Courtship

It's time, guys. Time to step out in faith and invite this woman to discern marriage with you. No, it's still not a proposal. It's not even a declaration of love. Does it all sound too religious and stuffy? Or too long drawn out? Here's why this stage is so good and necessary:

- Courtship is drawing nearer to each other, opening yourself up to another person and letting them in. It is a romantic relationship, but one based not just on what feels good in the moment, but on a real desire to know the other well. You are asking yourself and God "Is this the one I can give myself to?" You can't do that without stepping in, and taking a risk with your heart. You have to wet your feet before diving all the way in.

- What do you do during courtship? Well, make sure you are spending plenty of time with each other, in different kinds of settings. If it's possible, spend time with each other's families, and doing different kinds of activities together. (This is a little more difficult when it's a long distance relationship as mine was and is.)

- The community I grew up with has a set of modules, questions on different kinds of topics to make sure y'all are covering all the important stuff. You need to make sure you are talking about your attitudes and plans about how and where you want to live, your career plans, your relationship with your family, whether you are open to two working spouses or hope that one will be the primary homemaker, whether you are open to a joint family or not, your spending habits, and the roles you think husbands and wives should take on, how much your faith influences you, how many kids you are open to having, what family life looks like to you, whether you agree with EVERYTHING the Catholic Church teaches, or think some stuff is optional, etc.

- Soak this time with prayer. Pray for your boyfriend or girlfriend, and pray with them too. Go to Adoration and Mass together. Talk about your faith and how it has grown.

- Set good boundaries for yourselves for how you want to show physical affection, and stay within those boundaries. If you know you're straying close to temptation, take a step back. It's good to show affection though! Get to know each other's love languages, and use them.

- My now-fiance and I decided we also wanted to spend time with other Christian couples that we respected. With the long-distance aspect, we only managed to have that time with one couple, but it was wonderful. We asked them questions about their relationship and family life, how their faith played into their decisions, and their honest answers helped us a lot.

- It is a very good idea to have a spiritual director, or even just a wise person we can each talk to about how the courtship is going. This should be a person we can be honest with, who knows our weaknesses and know how discernment works, and who is able to challenge us, encourage us, ask us hard questions, and pray for us through it all. I had a few GOOD conversations with my spiritual director, a young Catholic wife and mother, and her counsel was invaluable to me. One of my friends does an informal courtship guidance for young couples in relationships.

- We also decided to take separate silent retreats to hold up everything we were thinking and feeling to the Lord, and see whether it measured up to the kind of love He was calling us to. In silence and in prayer, the Lord was able to guide our hearts.

- I highly recommend reading JP2's Love and Responsibility. I had so many questions about what love is, how I could know if it was real, and what the difference between being in love and loving someone was (if it's just about choosing to love someone, then you could marry practically anyone and make it work. But if it's about a feeling, well, feelings fluctuate. So how does it all work together?) JP2 gave me the clarity that I was looking for.

- Even though this time is the right time to grow closer to one another, I would recommend waiting until you are very sure you want to marry this person before talking about love. Why? Because love ISN'T just based on the emotion of the moment. It has to be a deep assurance that this is it, this is the person you have chosen. Once you have used the L word, it's game over. Or it should be. When it used without that firm decision, it is very easy to hurt the other person.

- Courtship is a great time to let yourself fall in love. No, I'm not talking about manufacturing emotions, or faking it in any way. But many of us who have been guarding our hearts need to remind ourselves it's okay to slowly let our guard down.

- Guys, it is so wonderful for us women when you take the lead, when you choose to woo us. Sometimes (often), it takes our hearts a little longer to respond, but they slowly do when you are confident and assured and eager. Look at us with love. Tell us we are beautiful. Tell us how you feel. Hold our hands. But don't fake it! If you're not sure, don't do any of that stuff!

- A successful courtship is not necessarily one that ends in marriage. A successful discernment is when you have figured out whether or not this is the right person for you. This means it is possible for one or either of you to reach a place where you 'discern out', and let the other person know (after sufficient prayer and counsel) that you do not feel called to marriage with them. Ouch. Yes, it will hurt. But you will recover. (Especially if you did not skip Stage 1.)

- How long should a courtship take? Some say no longer than six months. It may differ for different people. But it is wise not to let it go on too long. For me and J, we were both sure a month and a half into our courtship, after just knowing each other four months.

- Be honest with each other about where you are, if you have concerns or questions NOW is the time to voice them. Don't be afraid to go there, and don't avoid tough topics because you're afraid it will upset things. How you deal with tough topics will prepare you for a life together.

When you are both ready and sure, it's time to move on.. to the proposal and the engagement stage. I have JUST started that stage, and so you may have to wait a little longer to hear my sage words of advice on how to survive and thrive that stage (that is, if I survive it).

Relationships can be confusing and painful when we don't think them through and stumble blindly through them guided only by the wisdom of an even more confused and misleading world, and our own fallen desires. But relationships built on more solid foundations, guided by prudence, virtue and an openness to the Holy Spirit can be beautiful and good and freeing. I pray for you all to have holy relationships.

Feel free to send in any questions or ideas for related blog posts!

Related Reading

How to Love Well

How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love

What To Do When Things Don't Go Your Way

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Monday, 18 February 2019

Relationships Stage 4: The Dating Stage

Continuing the Stages of a Relationship series.
Stage 1: Fall in Love with Jesus
Stage 2: The Search
Stage 3: The 'Talking' Stage

Stage Four: The Dating Stage

At some point, someone has to get to the point. Guys, be bold! Don't drift! Take the initiative and say, "Hey, I would love to get to know you better, and see if the Lord has something more for the two of us. Can I take you out for coffee sometime?" Girls, feel free to ask what's going on if it's dragging on too long.

- PLEASE keep in mind that going on a date is not equal to proposing or accepting marriage. Girls, if a guy asks you out, it doesn't mean he's madly in love with you. Guys, if a girl says yes, she is just saying, "Yeah, you seem nice. Let's see if there's something here."

Don't do that

- When you go on a date, be real, be yourself and don't feel the need to be anything or anyone else. If the other person doesn't like the real you, great, you've weeded out the wrong ones.

- If you're a little nervous about going on a date, look up some good conversational starters and date questions. Ask good questions, most people love to talk about themselves and it gives you a glimpse of who they are.

- Remember that it's a conversation, not a monologue! If you find yourself going on and on, stop and say, "Sorry, I'm talking too much.. Would YOU rather die by drowning or being buried alive?" (the 'would you rather' game, always a winner :))

- You don't need to spend the whole date figuring out if you've found 'the one' or if you have romantic feelings for this person. You just need to figure out if you like this person enough to want to meet them again. That was the best advice I received about first dates. A friend told me, "When you go on a date, it's either a yes, a no, or a maybe. If it's a maybe, go on another date, and another until it becomes clear." When I met my (now) fiancé, we got on like a house on fire, it was super-easy to talk to him and be myself with him. I didn't know if there was anything more yet, but I knew I wanted to see him again. And so we planned another date.

- Be clear about where you are. After I went on both my Catholic Match dates, the guys texted the next day to ask, "So, what do you think? Would you like to meet again?" I was very grateful that they asked so directly, and I was able to respond as directly (while trying to be gentle), "I don't really see this going anywhere, but thank you for asking me out and coming all the way to meet me." With my now-fiancé, I told him, "I don't know for sure if this is going anywhere yet, but I'd like to continue going on dates, so we can get to know each other better." He told me to take my time until I was sure, so that's what we continued doing for a month.

- Going on dates is not the same as being in a relationship. But you need to have honest conversations so that you both understand that. Unfortunately in India we don't always have a common understanding about these things, or we are used to a system where our parents or a third party has those hard conversations. But I think that's something Indians can afford to grow in - having direct conversations about the things that matter, and avoiding misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It is a way to treat the other person with respect.

- Casual dating is a good place to ask deeper questions, to find out where the other person stands on the things that matter the most to you. But it's also a good place to have fun together, to see if you actually like spending time together. This is probably NOT a good time to be too intimate though, because this is still an uncommitted time, and this person still may be just a person you once dated. You don't need to talk about love, hold hands or get ahead of the stage you are at.

- Important tip to people who take themselves too seriously - please don't forget to be lighthearted, kid around, flirt and pay compliments. This is not a set of serious job interviews you have to get through. You want to see if you can fall in love with each other, and that's part of figuring that out.

- The casual dating stage is not purposeless or random. The point is to see if you are interested enough to want to seriously discern marriage with this person. That means at a certain point you need to decide if you want to enter the next stage.

Stage 5: Intentional Discernment or Courtship

Related Reading

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

The Lost Art of Listening

Relationships Stage 3: The 'Talking' Stage

Continuing the Stages of a Relationship series.
Stage 1: Fall in Love with Jesus
Stage 2: The Search

Stage Three: The Talking Stage

"So, are you guys dating?"

"No, we're just talking."

What does that even mean? It's that pre-dating ritual where a guy and a girl start talking one-on-one, which usually means texting or Facebook messaging or whatever newfangled thing this generation is into. Oh, for the days when talking actually meant talking! Just kidding, I never lived in those days.

The talking stage is just a getting to know you stage, where you can talk about everything and anything, you can be flirtatious, but you've not yet expressed an overt interest or intention. The talking stage is not a bad one, because you DO need to get to know someone a bit before knowing if you even want to date them.

Some people are able to skip this stage somewhat by ACTUALLY talking in group settings, when they have common friend circles, and there are normal and natural ways to get to know each other in neutral settings, to hang out and kid around and even have real conversations. I am a big fan of casual hangouts, but someone has to organize them, and then you have to use them well.

So, some 'talking' guidelines:

- Start intentional conversations with someone you find interesting.

- If you have an excuse to text them, go for it. "Here's a link to that thing we were talking about earlier."

- BUT if they don't respond, or answer in monosyllables, let it go. Please. If you're always the one starting the conversations, step back.

- Don't get too personal too fast. Ask good questions, listen well, but don't share too much of your heart. Guard your heart. Talking doesn't mean anything until intentions are clearly stated.

- Guarding your heart doesn't mean that you need to be overly clinical or detached or closed. It just means setting good boundaries, not making assumptions, and remembering that you may very well move on, and that this person that you are sharing information with could one day just be 'somebody that you used to know'.

- Don't start 'talking' with someone unless you really are interested in something more. RANT ALERT: Too many people get very emotionally involved without having seriously thought about whether they are really ready for something more. Flirting is only okay if it means something. So many broken hearts, hurt feelings, painful disappointments when people are not intentional about these kind of conversations. Also, once you get in the habit of texting someone, it's hard to break even when you know you are not seriously interested. Every time you're lonely, it's tempting to start it up again, just for a little attention. When you get stuck in a cycle like that, you're not going to be ready for the right person when he or she DOES come along, and you are not going to be able to live the life God has given you to live.

- Don't 'talk' with more than one person at a time.

- If someone is trying to 'talk' to you, and you're not really interested, don't go on responding to their messages. In the long run, it is better to be clear and blunt than to lead someone on. "Yeah she said she's not interested, but she's still texting back, so who knows?"

- Don't overdo the time and duration of these texting or phone conversations - if it's all day every day over a few weeks, it's probably time to move to the next stage. Actually the sooner it moves to the next stage, the better. Being intentional is the key! And nothing can beat real life in person dates. You get an actual feel for the person which rapport via texting and calls can hint at but may not lead to.

Alright, time for Stage Four: The Dating Stage

Related Reading

Guys, Stop Texting Girls! And Other Super Helpful Advice for the 'Good' Guys

Relationships Stage 2: The Search

Continuing the Stages of a Relationship series.

Stage 1: Fall in Love with Jesus

Stage Two: The Search

When you feel that you are in a good place, ready for a relationship but not desperate for it, ask God to guide the search. There are so many ways to go about it. Whatever ways you use, don't put all your hopes into the search working the way you thought it would. The easiest way to mess it up is by giving God a timeline.

Did you know, I planned to get married in my early twenties, and have a bunch of kids by now? I thought I was so counter-cultural. But God had a pretty cool plan of His own, which involved me having a number of adventures, working in a an office, teaching in a village, doing eight years of mission work, travelling to different countries, serving the poor, growing happier and more confident and more peaceful over the years.. and THEN meeting my sweetheart at the ripe old age of 32. Who knew? Well, God did.

So how to go about this search?

- Be faithful to the work, the relationships and the mission God has currently entrusted to you. Live in the present moment, or you will miss the gifts of the present moment.
- Start praying for the Lord to guide your steps.
- Ask good leaders in your life if they think you are ready, and if they have any advice on areas you could work on to be more ready.
- Let friends know you're open to meeting someone, and that they are allowed to set you up. If someone DOES try to set you up, go ahead and meet the person.
- Prepare yourself mentally to meet people who it may not work out with.
- Take a risk - go out of your comfort zone. You can't meet someone if you're not willing to talk to new people. I joined Catholic Match and went on a couple of dates, one in the US, which for cautious over-thinker Sue was quite the feat. Nether worked out, but I didn't care because I had overcome my fears.

- Don't worry about other people's opinions. Welcome to India, where everyone has an opinion, and isn't afraid to share it with you. If you want to go for a 'meet eligible singles' event, that's your business.
- Make sure you know what you're looking for before you go looking. Don't expect or look for someone who is perfect, but someone who has the big stuff in place - faith, integrity, maturity, etc.
- Be the kind of person you want to date.
- Be willing to be friendly and interested in new people you meet.
- Say yes to opportunities to meet new people. Go with a willingness to make friends, not just search for 'the one'.
- Don't write someone off just because you aren't immediately attracted to them.
- If you've been doing all this stuff and still haven't met anyone, don't worry about it. It doesn't mean you are doing something wrong or you haven't tried hard enough which is what I think many people try to imply. Yay for interfering busybodies!

- If you don't meet someone, be at peace, it may not be the right time yet. Last April I was talking to a young couple who I respect a lot, and the husband asked me. "So Susanna, what has been the subject of your prayer recently?" And because I am a sharer and like to dive right in, and because they are good enough friends that I could be honest with them, I told them "Being single!" He looked at me and said, "That's not good. While it's good to pray about it, at a certain stage you need to let it go and tell the Lord, 'However You work it out is fine.'" He spoke from experience, and I agree with him. Do what you can do, but stop obsessing.
- If you DO meet someone who seems interesting and interested, move on to the next stage.

Stage 3: The 'Talking Stage' 

Related Reading

What Not To Look For in an Indian Spouse

A Catholic Perspective on Arranged Marriages