Friday, 28 December 2018

Changing My Christmas Wish List

When I was thirteen years old, my older sister got asked out for a Christmas dance held at our local parish. It was an exciting event for us all, with the first teenager of the family (she was 16) stepping into the new and unfamiliar world of going for dances, dates and romance in general. I still remember the young man coming to pick her up from my grandparents’ home where the rest of the family was doing the usual family Christmas. He wore a silver shirt, had an earring (yes, that was cool back in 1999) and brought her a bouquet of red roses with lady’s lace (that’s a kind of flower). We swooned, and I promised myself that one day I too would be asked out to a Christmas dance and it would just as dramatic and exciting. My post-school future seemed filled with potential.

Well, that never happened. When I was sixteen, no one asked me out, the guys in my life were either too shy to ask or were deterred by the fact that they couldn’t take a girl to a dance on a bicycle which was the only mode of transportation they had in junior college. I spent several Christmases sulking because I had still never got asked to a dance. Over the years, there was always something or the other to be disappointed by during Christmas. It was usually related to my social life, the parties that we organized or were invited to. The question was always – what are we doing for Christmas?

I remember the year that changed. The question came up again, and this time I thought - What about all the other people who don’t belong to the cool world of social events? What do THEY do for Christmas? Probably stay at home and feel left out too. That year I decided to organize my own party for people who didn’t have anything else to do for Christmas. It was fun! We played games, ate leftover Christmas lunch, and enjoyed each other’s company.

Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was my deepening Christian faith. But I finally began to ask better questions, and desire better things. As long as I was chasing my own pleasure, I just couldn’t ‘get no satisfaction’. But joy is deeper than pleasure, and I began to find it when I asked for and expected different things.

Over this last decade of Christmases I have had many, many special moments of joy. But many of them were things I probably wouldn’t have imagined being enough when I was thirteen. I stopped going to parties for the most part, and hung out with family a lot more. I had cozy evenings in, sipping Bailey’s and watching movies. I had the joy of coming up with fun gifts for my family members, and the very, very special joy of seeing Christmas through my little nieces’ eyes. One year my sister and I became ‘Secret Angels’ who dropped off cookies at people’s homes without them seeing us.

This Christmas I invited over a few kids from the school I serve with to make Christmas sweets with me for their families since their mums are maids and are even busier during Christmas. On Christmas day I visited an Adoration chapel to spend time with the Birthday Boy. I spent time just hanging out with the people I love. This Christmas was extra special because I got to spend a lot of time with a new and important man in my life.

My Christmases have become slower and less glamorous, but richer and deeper. In Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.”

Some people already know this secret. I am still learning it. But it just takes that one moment when you step back and ask yourself – ‘What am I chasing? And is it really worth it?” Maybe we all need to make some changes to our Christmas wish list.

Related Reading 

Are You Going to a Christmas Dance?

Five Christmas Gifts- Stories of Hope

Eight Tips to Surviving Christmas

Christmas Highlights - 2013

7 Christmas Quick Takes - 2014

7 Christmas Quick Takes - 2015 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

On Waiting

It is rare that I find a Christian who does not love reflecting and pondering on the topic of ‘waiting on the Lord’… usually while journaling and drinking a big cup of coffee. Or maybe that’s particularly an American Christian woman stereotype.

Anyway, the stereotype is based on a very real integral part of every person’s life – waiting and the need for hope. Over the past decade and a half, I’ve probably filled up many journals reflecting on this very topic. I assume if you search through my blog archives, you will find even more. But never more so than at Advent does this aspect rise to the surface. We relive and reflect on the hopes and dreams of the entire world, the ache for fulfilment, the longing for salvation through the centuries in these days. I wrote a little about it in my last post. I wanted to share just a few little insights and ponderings of my own heart.

- Waiting is not forever. Hope does not disappoint. We can get so used to waiting, we sometimes forget that it is not an end in itself. But Jesus came! God is here, close to the hearts of all those who seek Him. That is why waiting and hope and inextricable linked. We are called to wait with joyful anticipation. Let God surprise you! How often do we miss out on His surprises because we have stopped looking for them, our eyes are not lifted up to see them anymore. Don't stop expecting and don't stop asking.

- There are many different periods of waiting during our earthly lives. But look back – so many have been fulfilled! God came through SO many times. I often forget, because I’m looking at the next thing. ‘Remember the days you prayed for what you have now.’

 - Waiting is one of the most beautiful gifts God can give us, because it is an invitation to unite ourselves with the Giver, not the gift. It is perhaps not the easiest gift to receive, but that does not make it any less valuable. Looking back at over a decade of singleness, waiting to receive the gift of a husband and family, I realized I would not change it if I had a choice now, because in the struggle, in the questions, in the adventures, in the solitude… I found an intimacy with God, and a new strength and reliance on Him, that perhaps I would not have received any other way.

 - One of the beautiful gifts of waiting is solidarity with others who wait. Only women who have at some time time struggled with infertility can truly empathize and walk with those who carry that burden. I could preach from the rooftops about how ‘God alone is enough’ and how being single is not the end of the world, but my words have weight because I’ve lived that. I have had such deep and tender moments of shared burdens but shared hope with other single women. But it took both the experience, as well as the willingness to be vulnerable with others about the struggle.

- Waiting is a beautiful way to abide, instead of strive, to be receptive to what God is saying and doing, rather than to grasp at the things I think I need.

 - The key to waiting is trust. God is trustworthy. He will NOT disappoint you. He has NOT forgotten you. He will NOT deprive you. He will NEVER give you second-best. It is when we let trust die in our hearts, that waiting becomes tinged with bitterness, with cynicism, with despair.

- The surest way to rob waiting of its gifts is to start comparing your life with others'. That is taking on a suffering God has not asked you to bear. Comparison is a thief of joy. Your story is different from others'. Your waiting contains gifts they will not receive.

 - God alone really IS enough. I need to remind myself of that when I'm tempted to make the object of my waiting into an idol. He satisfies. Fulton Sheen writes, 'You begin to see that friendship, the joys of marriage, the thrill of possession, the sunset and the evening star, masterpieces of art and music, (...) the industries and comforts of life, are all gifts of God. He dropped them on the roadway of life, to remind you that if these are so beautiful, then what must be Beauty!' He is the One we are really waiting for, and He has promised us Himself.

- 'God is never late, but He is sure never early either.' That line from one of the recent Abiding Together podcasts struck me. God's gonna take His time. Settle back, and don't stress out. 'Lord, take your sweet, sweet time.' 

I pray today for all those of you who wait.

Related Links 

Waiting [Abiding Together Podcast] 

Loneliness and Longing - Bobby Angel

Discernment - Bobby Angel

If you liked this post, consider becoming a patron for as little as Rs 100 or a $1 a month. Patrons receive a weekly behind the scenes video and a free copy of my ebook. Email me at for more information.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Hey, It’s Not Christmas Yet!

I promise I’m not trying to be the Grinch or Scrooge here, but I just want to hit a pause on the whole ‘Yay it’s December so let’s decorate our houses, start playing Christmas carols and spread the Christmas cheer!’ I’m all about Christmas cheer… but IT’S NOT CHRISTMAS YET!

So what, you say? I know it’s tempting, guys. Christmas can be magical, and who wants to miss out on some Christmas magic? This is what it comes down to – God wants to give you much, much more than mere Christmas cheer. And that’s why we have Advent.

I remember often thinking when I was younger, “Why do they keep saying we are preparing for the coming of Baby Jesus during Advent? Didn’t he already come as a baby a long time ago?” I was reminded by a friend a few days ago that the liturgical readings of the first three weeks of Advent focus on the Second Coming of Christ, and it’s only in the last week that we are commemorating the FIRST Coming when Jesus came as a baby.

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. CCC 524 

Advent is all about expectancy, waiting, and ardent desire.

We’re all waiting for something. For so many single people, it is a waiting for the right person to come along. For many young couples, it is a longing for a child. For some, it is a hunger for peace and reconciliation within their families, or a longing for freedom from anxiety, depression or addiction for themselves or for someone dear to them.

But deeper within those desires, there is a longing, a desire for fulfilment, a deep ache for something more. Advent is a chance to recognize that desire is really for Jesus, that our hearts are hungry for Him. But the beautiful, exciting thing is that HE IS COMING. Just as the world waited in darkness for the coming of the dawn for centuries before Jesus arrived as a baby in an unknown corner of the world, He has PROMISED He will return, and that He will bring salvation to all those who desire it. He will wipe away every tear, He will right every wrong, He will satisfy every desire of your heart. 

Take heart, my friends! Lift your eyes and see – HE IS COMING! The Second Coming is the end of the world, and we do need to be ready. But for many of us, it may be our own deaths that may come first, and that we need to prepare our hearts for. But there is another coming – the daily coming of Christ. Heaven starts here on earth, if only we desire it enough. ‘God is always trying to give us good things, but our hands are too full to receive them' said Saint Augustine. Which is why we have Advent. We need to stretch our hearts to make room for heaven. We need to empty our hands and open them before God. In a world of instant gratification, we need to consciously choose to embrace the waiting, even when it is tinged with pain.

How can we embrace Advent? I know it’s not much time left, but here’s your chance to redeem the next week

1. Set aside time every day to visit an Adoration chapel. Bring the deepest longings and desires of your heart to Jesus, and just sit with Him in the waiting.

2. Put away your Christmas music and fill your home with Advent music. What’s Advent music? Any music that focuses on waiting, on expectation, on the coming of Christ.

3. Make an Advent wreath, light a candle every night, and read the liturgical readings. Or pray the Divine Office. The riches and wisdom of the Church shine through the Divine Office.

4. Listen to an Abiding Together podcast every day. I suggest these ones:

5. Pick one personal act of love to do every day until Christmas:

  • Write a letter to a friend 
  • Pack a few groceries and find someone to give it to 
  • Send an affirming or encouraging text to someone who needs it 
  • Hug your family members and tell them you love them 
  • Forgive someone who has hurt you 
  • Drop in and visit an old relative 

I pray all you have an Advent that allows you to receive more fully the JOY of Christmas. I will be working on some of these things too. Let me know how it goes!

Related Reading and More Advent Song Lists 

Favorite Catholic Advent Songs

10 Advent Songs To Cure the Christmas Craziness 

Eight Tips to Surviving Christmas

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

What Women REALLY Want

Women gossiping in a tailor's shop
Die Gartenlaube (1880) via Wikimedia Commons

I recently got into a discussion about what women find attractive and lovable in a man versus what men think a woman finds attractive in a man. It seems as if many guys think that being a 'manly man' is more attractive than sweetness and kindness. So of course I did what any girl would do to prove a point - I sent out a poll to all my women friends to ask them what they thought.

This was how I phrased the question.

Which of these traits are most likely to cause you to fall in love with a guy?

A] Playfulness (Flirtatiousness and light-heartedness)

B] Manliness (Physical strength and confidence)

C] Sweetness (Protectiveness and tenderness)

D] Wealth (Expensive gifts and exciting date activities)

Though there were different opinions from different women, the majority seemed to agree that a mixture of B and C (confidence and tenderness) was the winning combination. But there were many other traits that my friends told me were important to them too.

So guys, in case you were wondering, here is what women really value:

1. Sweetness: Not mere romantic gestures, and sentimental platitudes, but a real tenderness in the way you look out for the woman you love. It needs to be a special sweetness just for her, more than chivalry, or kindness, definitely not condescending or more about you than her (look at what a good guy I am/you can't look after yourself so I will). It manifests itself in many little ways. But though there are many attractive qualities women notice in men, it is tenderness that wins our hearts, and allows us to trust.

2. Confidence: Please don't be cocky, or arrogant. That has never been attractive. Humility and confidence can go hand in hand. No matter what you look like, how much money you have, or where you stand on the social status scale, if you have confidence when you go a-wooing, women will give you a second look. But this confidence comes from a deep place of knowing your identity in Christ, being aware of your flaws, but knowing you are more than that, and you DO have something to offer - a heart full of love.

3. Playfulness: 'Creativity is intelligence having fun.' There is something about a man who doesn't take himself too seriously that is very attractive. Romance needs fun more than it needs intensity. And when you're growing old, or facing crises together, it helps to have someone who knows how to make you laugh... or knows how to find the humour in any situation. I once asked an older married couple for marriage tips, and they said what helped them the most was that they learned to laugh when things went wrong instead of making everything into a big deal. Disclaimer: playful doesn't mean never taking anything seriously.

4. The way he treats people: When we see men who are genuinely kind to people when they think no one is watching, we know we've met a keeper. Do you greet maids, or chat with street sellers? Or are you too important or self-absorbed to do so? Do you offer to give a ride to anyone who needs it, or are your selfless acts reserved for girls you're trying to impress? Do you notice beggars on the street? Do you play and chat with children or treat them like they are a nuisance or invisible? Are you patient when your family members make demands on you, or rude or short-tempered? It all adds up.

5. Integrity: Do you do what is right even when it costs you? I hate the idea that women are supposed to be the upholders of morality and convert the men they marry into reluctant paragons. Women are looking for men who value the truth, and are willing to stand up for it. 'Is it right?' should always be a higher priority than 'Is it convenient?'

6. Maturity: I know that this may be a tough one to evaluate yourself on, because it's always easier to see immaturity in others than in oneself. But here are some questions that may help. Do you sulk when you don't get your way? Do you insist you're right long after you've been proved to be wrong? Are you able to apologize when called out on bad behaviour? Or do you just try to move on without acknowledging it? When is the last time you apologized sincerely to someone? Are you able to take or make lighthearted jokes at your own expense?

7. Love for God: For those of us who are disciples, we're looking not just for 'religious' or 'god-fearing' men. We're looking for men who KNOW God and LOVE God. If you want to be able to love a woman well, you need to be in contact with the Source of all love, the original and best Lover of our souls. That comes down to men who prioritize personal prayer and scripture reading, who are able to easily talk about what God has been saying to them.

8. Aware of people's needs: Men are notorious for being oblivious to the needs of the people around them. Not all men are like that, but enough are that this may need to be said - if you see the people around you bustling around doing things while you sit and chat or read a newspaper or scroll through your phone, maybe you need to stop and ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?" When in doubt, start washing dishes. If you see someone crying or visibly upset, ask "Is something wrong?" You don't have to solve all the problems, just show that you care and are available to help if you can. (Side note to women, you also need to communicate your needs without resentment that he 'should have noticed'.)

9. Sincerity: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don't flirt with women unless you have a real intention of pursuing her. Don't play games, or try to manipulate us. Ugh. We hate that. Be real! Authenticity is so much needed in the world today. If you mess up, don't cover up, but share about it honestly. If you want to move on, talk to the woman honestly about it. Have the 'define the relationship' talk sooner rather than later. If you're not sure where a woman is, ask her. Don't pay compliments that you don't mean. Don't say things just because you think we want to hear it. And don't be afraid to have difficult conversations when necessary.

10. Optimism: A lot of us struggle with negativity and self-doubt. What a gift to have someone who sees and calls out the good within us and in the world around us. What a gift when we can see all the beautiful potential in the future, not just all the potential pitfalls. 'What if I fail?' Oh but my darling, what if you fly?' We need encouragers, optimists, people who speak LIFE. Don't let the darkness consume you. Stop obsessing about the pitiful state of our country, how corrupt everyone is, and start talking about the beautiful encounter you had yesterday, the signs of hope you noticed, and the ways you can together bring light to the world. Optimism is attractive.

You may have noticed that most of these traits could just as easily be applied to women. So women, you may need to work on this stuff too, and not just wait for a man to show up to make up for all your lacks. Be the kind of woman who a man like this would want to marry. And you know, whether you're single or married, these are just marks of the kind of human being I would want to have in my life. (And I actually have many humans like this in my life. Yay for friends!)

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Saturday, 24 November 2018

Don't Be Afraid of Strong Women: A Reflection on Wonder Woman

I watched Wonder Woman for the second time a couple of weeks ago, and I had the same thought as I did the first time I watched it – ‘I need to blog about this character.’ Also, ‘I wish I were as cool as Gal Gadot.’ First of all, my usual disclaimer, I’m not an expert on superhero movies, and don’t typically know the entire back story and character arc of every superhero. Still, I love these movies. And I loved Wonder Woman for so many reasons.

The whole initial part about the island Princess Diana grew up on was so aesthetically pleasing, strength and beauty and grace and courage effortlessly interwoven in these Amazons. I loved Gal Gadot as the choice of actress to play Wonder Woman. Man, she’s gorgeous, but also not at all the typical face you see in Hollywood movies.

But mostly I loved her character. Here was a woman who was the protagonist of her own story, not just a sidekick or a love interest or a prop for the male character. I think many women need to learn that their story is important, that they are worthy and valuable and that God has a plan for their life specifically. They are not just valuable in relation to other people, they don’t gain value by becoming a girlfriend or a wife, neither do they lose value if a man leaves them or rejects them or chooses someone else over them. Women, you are valuable and your life is important! Your story matters.

Princess Diana was a strong woman. Physically, yes... and it kind of makes me want to get fit and stop leading such a sedentary life. But she also had strength of conviction, and wasn’t embarrassed or hesitant to speak up for the truth. My favourite scene is when she overhears the British leaders talking about peace at any cost, without being willing to protect their soldiers, and she just can’t be silent. 

Steve: Diana, I know this confusing... '

Diana: It is not confusing! It's unthinkable! 

Some general: Who is this woman? 

Steve: She is with me, she is with us. 

Diana: I'm not.. I am not with you! You would knowingly sacrifice all those if they mean less than yours. 

Steve: Diana, let's talk about it outside. 

Diana: As if they mean nothing? Where I come from, generals don't hide in their offices like cowards. They fight alongside their soldiers.They die with them on the battlefield! 

Steve: That's enough! My apologies. 

Diana: You should be ashamed. 

Steve: My apologies. 

Diana: You should be ashamed. All of you should be ashamed! 

She just goes in there and calls them out. Man! She reminds me of Saint Catherine and Saint Teresa of Avila and even Saint Teresa of Kolkata boldly and confidently calling out the powers that be. They weren’t arrogant or brash or full of themselves, but full of the Holy Spirit moving them to speak, whether or not it would be received well.

Women, don’t be afraid to use your voice – not in anger, or bitterness, or accusation, or harshness, or nagging. But with conviction and holiness and truth, speak up for those who have no voice, speak up for the things that are counter-cultural but TRUE. You have something to say! Ask God to purify your motives, then SPEAK UP. Sometimes people feel threatened by strong women, but this an opportunity to change that.

What I loved about Diana's strength was that it was purified by her innocence and her softness. It was not a self-serving strength. It was not manipulative or sly or controlling. It was at the service of the good. Like Captain America, here is a superhero who is not focussed on his or her own issues or dealing with personal demons. Instead for both of them, they believed in the good and just wanted to do what was right! How much like the lives of the saints we know about. Of course, we ARE human and do have personal demons, and yet in Christ, hearts and motives can be purified, our perspective changes to see the world as God sees it, and our heart longs to join in His saving work. It’s not just being idealistic, but believing that the world CAN be better.

Diana: It is our sacred duty to defend the world. And I wish to go… 

Steve: My father told me once he said... ‘If you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something.’ And I already tried nothing. 

Diana (as her mother tries to stop her): I am going, mother. I cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost. If no one else will defend the world from Ares, then I must. I have to go. 

Diana’s strength did not detract from her softness and tenderness at all. I LOVE the tiny scene where she arrives in London for the first time, and is looking at everything with surprise and some amount of disgust (grimy London was ugly compared to her beautiful home island). But then she sees a woman with a stroller, and she runs toward her with excitement, “A BABY!” You could see how filled with compassion she was when she heard or saw different people’s sufferings. Her strength and idealism didn’t blind her to the person in front of her.

Women, don’t be afraid to be soft and gentle either. You have both strength AND tenderness. Your gentleness does not detract from your strength. The world needs your strength AND your tenderness. And to the rest of the world, don’t be afraid of strong women. Help them find their strength and their voice, because God has a unique role for them in the healing and salvation of this broken, messed up world.

Disclaimers: There were certain parts of Diana’s story that didn’t really fit into her character, and I don’t think they rang true. Like the conversation she and Steve had on the boat about not needing men and marriage being an unfamiliar concept. With her idealism and value for the human person, it seems obvious she would have believed in lifelong marriage and sex only in that context. Come on, Hollywood.

Related Links:

Steven Greydanus reviews Wonder Woman at Decent Films

How Bad Sexual Ethics Ruin Good Superhero Movies

Abiding Together Podcast about Saint Catherine of Siena 

Description: Today we begin our 5 part series on the women Doctors of the Church by first exploring the life of St. Catherine of Siena. St. Catherine was a preacher, influencer, writer, miracle worker, and mystic. In this episode, we chat about Catherine’s example of intimacy with God, her fiery heart and voice of conviction, how her hidden life fueled her passion for the Church and restoration, and how we can follow her example in specific ways.

Abiding Together Podcast about Saint Hildegard of Bingen

Description: Today’s episode we dive into the life of St. Hildegard of Bingen, part 2 of our series on the women doctors of the Church. We talk about how amazing this woman was, her many talents and how she used the power of her voice and influence to help restore the Church. We also discuss places that we have lost our voice, the trap of self doubt, and letting God be strong in our weakness.

Abiding Together Podcast about Saint Teresa of Avila 

Description: Today’s episode is Part 3 of our series on the women doctors of the Church, on the life of St. Teresa of Avila. We talk about the great gift of her spiritual writings, her humor, her practical wisdom and her reforming spirit. We talk about growing in self awareness and how we can move through spiritual pitfalls.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Six Good Reasons to Consider Becoming a Patron in 2018

Most of you know I started a Patreon page last year. Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for artists and creators to get paid. The idea is that creators of all kinds - artists, writers, musicians, bloggers, podcasters, etc - are often churning out content, but don't always find ways to make it pay. That's where Patrons comes in! Patrons are people who love what the artist creates, and are willing to donate a small amount every month to support the creator of their choice.

So why should you consider becoming a Patron?

1. Get the weekly behind-the-scenes audios and videos: Only for my community of Patrons ... usually everyone gets to to view all the content I create but I realized Patrons might need a little extra thank you for their support. So I'm going to record some of the not-too-polished but funny or ridiculous or thought-provoking or awkward moments from the week, and share them with you guys! Enjoy the awkwardness!


2. Read the first ebook I've ever created: How hard can that be to create, right? There's a lot of great posts from the past I wanted to unearth, and bring to you, without you having to dig through the archives. Not only that, I found some stuff I wrote that I had never published (including a short romantic story, thank you for the inspiration, Women's Weekly from the 70s!), and some stuff from my blogs before 2013, so all that is going to make it to the ebook, once again ONLY for Patrons.


3. It's a tiny amount of money: What's a dollar a month.. or a hundred rupees per month? The cost of a chocolate bar, or a couple of bags of chips? You can afford that! (If you can't and you really want the ebook, email me and let me know! I'll send it to you!) Patreon works when a large number of people are willing to put a little money towards a creator.


4. You're bringing GOOD art to the world: There is so much of crappy stuff out there, all razzmattazz (what a GREAT word!) and no substance.


Isn't it great when you have good content to share with your friends? I often discover some great content like the Abiding Together podcast, and I just can't help sharing practically every episode I listen to with all the people I know would be blessed by it. But to have good content to share, someone needs to help creators create!

5. Christmas Cards in Your Post Box: Doesn't everyone secretly hope they will get some snail mail and homemade Christmas cards? Or is it just me? Oh well, for my $5 or Rs 300 and above Patrons, I will make and mail personalized Christmas cards. Yes indeed, Christmas is coming! Woo hoo!


6. And of course the MAIN reason you should become a Patron.. and this one is simply irresistible, darlings....

THIS VIDEO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Any more questions? No, I didn't think so.


Shoot me an email at if you're in India, or look up my Patreon page if you are outside India to become a Patron. Rewards start going out on November 14, 2018, so make sure you sign up before that!

P.S. In case you missed it, here is last year's post and video: Five Good Reasons to Consider Becoming a Patron

Monday, 29 October 2018

Ask Sue: How Should Catholics Choose Baby Names?

V asks, “Sue, I have a question for to-be parents. According to Scripture, what route/methodology should a Catholic couple take while choosing a name for their child? In the past, children have been named after saints whose feasts are celebrated on their birthdays, or based on suggestions by a priest or a nun, also by the direct promptings of the Holy Spirit (I much prefer the last one). 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. My ulterior motive: We still haven’t managed to settle on a name for baby no. 3."  

First of all, V, can I just say how excited I am that you are having baby no. 3? It’s unusual enough in India nowadays to have more than two, that it’s already a counter-cultural witness. So congratulations on welcoming a new little one into the world.

So, baby-naming is a big deal! There are so many different traditions and customs associated with baby names, from people whose kids' names all start with the same letter, or find ways to combine the mother and father’s names, to people whose cultural tradition demands that they name their kids after their grandparents (so the same names keep getting recycled every other generation), to people like my parents who just picked names they liked without any great hullabaloo (we all got to offer suggestions for our youngest brother, the fifth one, who narrowly missed being named Abraham because his five year old brother really liked that name – not that there’s anything wrong with the name Abraham!)

What does the Church say about it? Very little – “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.” (Canon Law no. 855)

“In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The ‘baptismal name’ can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2156)

So what can we get from that? Well, apparently there are a LOT of articles about this from American Catholics, which is not surprising because many of them are parents of large families, and choosing baby names is probably something they have to do every year or two. Also, like I said, a name is a pretty big deal. Names have always had a big significance in the Bible, sometimes given directly by God, and almost always having a meaning.

So here are a few articles where far more research and background have been done:

What’s in a (Catholic) Name? {An Interview with Sancta Nomina}

From Ambrose to Zelie: For Catholic Babies, Old Is the New New (by my homegirl, Simcha Fisher, mother of 10 herself!)

Do Catholic Children Have to Be Given Saint Names?

The Catholic Answers Guide to Naming Your Baby

But maybe you did your research already, and you just want my take on the subject. If so, here goes! (Let it never be said Sue Zanna did not have an opinion on any topic)

1. You as the parents are FREE to choose a name! In other words, just because something is a custom in your family, or your mother has a strong opinion about the name of her first grandchild, or wants the priest to pick it, does not mean you have to agree. This is a very personal choice, given to YOU as responsibility by the Lord, since you are the ones to whom this child has been entrusted. Of course, if you feel convicted about it, you CAN follow a family tradition too. But don’t be coerced or pressured into it.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you: This is just a general rule for everything that is not black or white! Which is a lot of things for Catholics. God leaves a lot of important stuff to our prudent judgement – what books we read, who we marry, how we spend our leisure time, and what we name our children. One of my favourite stories is from Jennifer Fulwiler about how she just knew what her daughter’s name was: A Name for Baby Joy.

3. You don’t HAVE to choose a saint or biblical name: Here’s my theory, if all we picked were saints or biblical names, then there would never be new saint names! You are raising your child to be a saint too, and maybe the world needs a Saint Priya, a Saint Kylie, a Saint Brian and a Saint Rohan. 

4. At the same time, a saint’s name can be very meaningful: Not only are you picking a lifelong friend and intercessor for your child, you are hopefully also inspiring your child and others to learn more about that saint. Maybe you have a saint who has been very instrumental in your life and your walk with the Lord, or maybe for that particular pregnancy and child. What a cool testimony to share when people ask you why you chose that name. Same for biblical names. A nice compromise with point 3 is that you could pick a second name that is a saint or biblical figure, and a first name that is not YET a saint name.

5. Be creative: If you already know more than five people with that name in your social circle, consider picking a different one. Things can get pretty confusing with the number of Rebeccas, Sarahs, Ryans, and Savios (I know more than five of each). If you love a particular saint, but so does everyone else, look into variations of that name. For example, I love Mara as a version of Mary, Avila for Saint Teresa of Avila. Also, there are many new saints that have not yet become super popular in Indian circles yet, so seize your chance – how about Zelie, Faustina, Maximilian or Kolbe, Kateri, Pio, or André?

6. But not too creative: You don’t have to pick a name JUST because it’s unique, as if it’s a competition with everyone else. That’s how you come up with weird names that no one can pronounce or spell, or everyone laughs at.

7. Honour your culture: I’m not sure why everyone is jumping on the Irish name bandwagon when they are not Irish, but I think it could be very cool to name your child something from your own local language, but with a Christian connection or significance. For example, Priya, Asha, Vishwas, Mariyam, Yohan, etc. Or someone from your life or family that you respect and want to honor (As long as you love the name too.)

8. Use your common sense: As much as you love a particular saint or biblical figure, consider that your child has to live in the 21st century, and if his or her name CAN be mocked, it WILL be. So don’t make it easier for your child to become a target. Perhaps nix Zerubabbel, Jedediah and Athanasius. (Sometimes I like to read the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew 1 just to announce to people that I’m going to name my child Uzziah or Jehoshaphat, and watch their faces.) Avoid names that can easily have undesirable double meanings. Or are the names of pop stars or movie characters that you probably will not care about in ten years.

9. Think of nicknames and spellings: Some names just automatically get shortened, so make sure you’re okay with the nickname too. And pick a name that your poor child doesn’t have to struggle to get people to spell throughout his or her life. Or don’t pick a normal name with a weird spelling.

10. Avoid names ‘foreign to Christian sensibility’: That means names of Hindu gods, names specifically associated with other religions, names of people who stood for or did evil, oh, and this may seem obvious, but perhaps not any names connected with Satan, like Diablo. Which a Catholic friend of mine had on her baby name list, because she thought it sounded nice. True story. Do your homework. Look up the names you’re considering.

11. Don’t tell people what names are ridiculous and you would never choose: Because depend on it, that was the name THEY were going to pick for THEIR child because it was so beautiful and meaningful to them, and then things can get very awkward very fast.

12. Feel free to ignore all my rules: YOU get to pick the name of your baby. If you and your spouse love it, and feel God is leading you to it, don’t worry, I’ll still love little Savio Zerubabbel.

P.S I didn’t put any of the names I am considering for my children (you know, all eight of them that exist somewhere in the future or my imagination or both) in this blog post, just so no one can steal them! Apart from Zerubabbel, because I know you guys won't steal that anyway.

Related Reading

Small Family = Happy Family... Really? 

Why Have Kids?

Saturday, 20 October 2018

How to Do Leadership Jesus-Style

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has some rather pointed things to say to Christian leaders. "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

I think it’s easy growing up in India to think that an authoritarian style is what is expected of anyone who has to take on the mantle of leadership. (Authoritarian: favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.) People have been under such leaders, served their time, and by the time they reach that position, without examining whether it is effective or right, they start doing the same thing. 

I haven’t had to lead many people, but I have been in various positions of leadership of small groups of people over the years. I thought I was a pretty good leader, or at least doing okay until I received a couple of talks about leadership from my organization.

To my shock, I realized I was doing everything wrong, because I didn’t really know what was expected of me as a leader. In my mind, a leader makes sure everyone know what they’re supposed to be doing, keeps everything running smoothly, organizes schedules and structures, and if necessary corrects or reminds people if they are failing in their duties.

This is what I found after listening to those talks, and observing my own leaders, and making plenty of mistakes of my own:

1. A good Christian leader’s first responsibility is to his or her team members, even ahead of getting things done, being productive or successful. People before tasks. I am not running a machine or a business, but I have PEOPLE who have been entrusted to me. That means their needs and feelings and thoughts and problems are more important than even ‘the good of the community’. A community is made up of individual people. They are not just cogs in a wheel, or projects to be fixed so they fit better into a structure or a plan. 

2. It’s my job to KNOW and LOVE those people. Even if they are very different from me, I need to know what makes them tick, what blesses them, what they’re good at, what their love language is, what their struggles are, where they need healing and mercy. The point is not to make best use of them, but to make sure they know they are loved and known. You can’t love what you do not know. You can't use people as resources.

3. It’s my job to ‘waste time’ with these people. I love how my leaders are constantly kidding around with us, finding something to joke about. I’m sure they have enough things on their mind to keep it strictly to business, but they deliberately choose to set those things aside for a while.

4. It is my job to SERVE my team! That means not just letting them know what they need to be doing, but going out of my way to do little tasks to bless them:
  • Cheerfully going the extra mile, or picking up the slack in menial tasks, washing dishes, sweeping floors, mopping up spills
  • Being quick to jump up and serve everyone including children and the poor and people under me
  • Being quick to respond to any request for help even if it’s inconvenient, not just serving when and how I prefer
  • Getting up and going to the next room when someone says something from there and I can’t hear what they said
  • Offering to make food, tea or whatever people need even if it’s not technically my job
5. I need to be their greatest encourager and cheerleader. I’ve failed miserably at this one. Not just on birthdays or special occasions, I need to make sure they know I believe in them, I value them, I think they’re pretty awesome, and that I’m blessed to be serving alongside them. There have been so many times that my leaders have just looked around the room and with sincerity (and sometimes with tears in their eyes) said “I am SO privileged to be serving with such sacrificial, holy men and women!” This also means when they come up with a new idea or try something new, I need to be the person saying, “I believe in you! You can do this!”, not primarily being a critic or a naysayer. Of course some words of guidance or prudence are often needed, but they should not be the only things I say.

6. I need to be very careful while exerting my authority: In the Gospel, Jesus said "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Mark 10: 42-42 Authority is important, but it is so easy to misuse. The primary relationship between a leader and anyone under them should be one of love and encouragement. Exerting authority or asking for obedience should only happen in important matters, it should not be the norm in the way they relate. It should never be used just to make a point, or in matters that are my personal opinion or not my decision to make. There are times though when I do need to exert that authority, but I should do so kindly and in a way that is easy to swallow. 

7. I am in charge of setting the tone: A leader needs to be joyful, holy and sacrificial because usually they are the ones setting the standard. If I’m not praying every day, it is quite likely my community members will not think it’s that big a deal if they don’t. If I walk around with a long face, being grumbly and downcast (been there, done that), that mood is sure to spread. But if I am cheerful, upbeat, if I jump into prayer and song regardless of others’ long faces, that spreads too! I also need to be willing to be vulnerable, admit my fault, and share my struggles, because people need to know that it’s okay to struggle as long as we keep returning to Jesus, the only perfect one.

8. I need to pray for them and remember God is in charge: It can be easy to feel like I am the primary shepherd of this person… but I am not! God is, and He is able to heal, restore, love, guide and shape this person far better than I am. I have no need to be anxious or irritated if they are not where I feel they should be, but regularly pray for them and entrust them to His care.

9. If I set high standards, I need to help them meet them, and be merciful if and when they fail. They need to know they can come to me and tell me they are struggling. They should know I am not inflexible or unsympathetic, but merciful like Jesus. 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.' Heb 4:15-16

I have failed very often as a leader. But I am trying to do better. I am helped by seeing models of what I want to be, and of course by following Jesus, with His extremely counter-cultural leadership style. Actually this list is good for not only leaders of teams or ministries or communities, but for parents, teachers, priests and sisters, anyone who has people in their care. If we are good leaders, we are forming not just good disciples but also people who themselves will be good leaders one day.

Here’s a quick list to print if you want to do a regular check (check yo’self before you wreck yo’self):

Have I encouraged or praised the people in my care today?
Have I really listened to their thoughts and feelings or dismissed them?
Have I prayed for them today?
Have I ‘wasted time’ with them today – chatted, asked how their day is going, played a prank, made a joke?
Have I given in when possible, or insisted on my way when it was not necessary?
Have I encouraged them in their own ventures and interests and efforts even if those were not my idea?
Have I been a joyful presence?
Have I been gentle when giving correction?
Have I told them how blessed I am to be their leader/parent/teacher?
Have I found out their love languages and tried to use them?
Have I served them with my hands today?
Have I asked them questions about their likes, dislikes, thoughts, feelings and opinions?
Have I set aside my other tasks when I noticed they needed a listening ear?
Have I been humble and open about my own faults, struggles and weaknesses?
Have I asked their forgiveness when I have lost my temper, been over critical or distracted or impatient, or failed them in any other way?
Have I said and done things the way I would prefer to have them said and done to me?
Have I been sympathetic when they shared their struggles or failures?

Monday, 15 October 2018

The Slow Crawl To Excellence

Every now and again I read an old blog post that I wrote and cause my sister and mom to roll their eyes as I exclaim, “Wow, this was great writing! I feel so inspired!” Or I start giggling all over again as I read a funny blog post that I wrote. Yeah, humility is my middle name.

But a couple of days ago I started to dig a little further into the past. I was looking for any good writing I had done for an ebook I am thinking of putting together. I unearthed the first blog that I started back when I was 20 years old. It was called ‘One of Five’. I went through the four years of posts that I had written in my early 20s and I was utterly humiliated. Good grief! Was that me? So clichéd, so immature, so nondescript. So embarrassing.

Maybe my next blog was better? I wrote for three years when I first became a Catholic volunteer and lived abroad. I was 24 when I started it. But no. Most of that was pretty painful to read as well. My writing revealed my unsureness, my lack of confidence in my own voice and even thoughts. They were largely about my faith, and yet they were lacking in substance. Those posts stuck to the most obvious of my beliefs, and didn’t explore nuances, didn’t seem to challenge me or anyone else.

I knew my writing was not good enough. When you read a lot, it’s easy to differentiate good writing from bad writing (for example, read Pride and Prejudice, and then read a cheesy free Christian romance novel. Yeesh.) But it’s a lot harder to create good writing.

I started my third blog in 2013. I was 27 years old. I knew that I wanted to write differently and better and realer. But also, I had changed, I had grown, and I had found my voice. I was sure about some things and not as worried about having things that I was still working out. And over the next five years, I began to slowly write better. Less links and more real writing.

A few years ago I realized that writing is one of my charisms. A charism is not just a talent, or a skill, but ‘graces that pass through you and me – with our cooperation – to convey God’s truth, beauty, provision, healing, and mercy to someone else’. I don’t have a very big audience (comparatively), but I often heard back from people that something I wrote drew them closer to God. Very often I would go back and look at that blog post, and it seemed as if I didn’t remember exactly how I put those particular strings of words or thoughts together. It seemed like more was coming out than I was putting in.

But I have come to believe that a charism or even just a skill or a talent doesn’t come out perfect the first time. It must be developed. It must grow and mature and be sharpened (or sometimes softened). I know I have a long way to go to reach excellence in writing. I only blog at the moment, which is a very chatty and informal style of writing. But there are so many other ways to write that I have barely touched. I have never even done a writing class. But I have my life ahead of me, and I’m happy that I have started this journey.

These are some of the things that I think have helped me reach where I am:

1. A lot of reading of GOOD writing: As a blogger, I realize I have picked up all these little tricks and styles from other blogs and authors that I have read extensively over the past 12 years. Somehow while I feel I am sometimes a weird mixture of Jennifer Fulwiler, Simcha FisherCamp Patton and Dave Barry, perhaps with a splash of Mama Knows, Honeychild, I am still me. But it’s not just blogs. If I had been reading only cheap romance novels or thrillers from the time I was young, I highly doubt that I would be writing particularly well. But thankfully I have been exposed to many, many talented authors, and delightful books, a wide vocabulary, subtle characters, and well-woven plots, and all that has subconsciously given me a foundation upon which to build.

2. A lot of bad writing: Embarrassing as it was to read my poor attempts at writing through the years, I probably would never have reached a place where I actually like to reread what I’ve written if I hadn’t gone through the bad years. Just like going through awkward social situations when you are a teenager eventually helps you become a self-possessed adult, you just have to get through the bad to get to the good. There are no short cuts. You don’t ever pull out a pen… I mean, open a Word document... for the first time and create a captivating bestseller.

3. Regular writing: Especially after starting my Patreon page and committing to write four posts every month, I’ve found that I have gotten better. Apparently in order to be a writer, you just have to write! My mum used to say that to me when I was a kid – “If you want to be an artist, you just have to pull out a pencil, look at something, and start sketching!” I can’t write just every once in a while and hope to get better at writing, which is I think how I thought it would work with my first two blogs.

4. Live life and write from the real life that you live: When I was in my early 20s I remember saying, “I want to write a book. But you’re supposed to write what you know. And I don’t know anything. I haven’t been anywhere or done anything or lived outside my bubble. So I think I need to live life before trying to write about it.” I have done a lot more living over the past 12 years (and I have a lot more to do), but my best writing comes from the life I live. I don’t ever want to stop living life and just write, because I would have nothing to write about.

5. Write what you want to read: If I write something, look at it and say “Boring!’, I usually just delete it. Or rewrite it better. I have a short enough attention span that I won’t bother reading something that isn’t snappy enough. I skip over nature descriptions in books. My eyes are drawn to dialogue, to words and thoughts that are unexpected, engaging. So I try to write what I like to read. If I find it boring, why would I expect anyone else to find it interesting? I write about topics that haven’t been written about a zillion times. Or at least I try.

6. Say a prayer: I usually shoot a quick ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before I write. Whether it’s a comic sketch about scary insects, or a serious post about anxiety or negativity, it can all be inspired by the Holy Spirit. I once wrote ‘People are Disappointing’ after not having any idea what to write about, sitting in front of my open laptop, and saying a prayer. It wasn’t one of those catchy posts about romance or marriage. ‘Hopefully someone will read it,” I thought. I knew titles usually need to be a little catchier. Few people liked or commented. But a few days later, an old friend (and patron) messaged me to tell me that it was exactly what she needed to read and that God was speaking to her directly through that post. So I’ve been a little more committed to that prayer-before-writing since then.

Well, that’s all I have for today. If you feel called to write, start writing! It may take a while, but you have something to say that the world needs to hear. It may be another creative venture like art or Youtube videos or song-writing or podcasting. Pray about it, and move forward! Be not afraid!

Recommended Reading 

Charisms FAQ

Bearing Fruit by Living Your Charism

How to Begin Dreaming [Abiding Together podcast]

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Tale of a City Girl in Nature

My niece E in Panchgani- she's supposed to be a younger version of me. 


"I think that Panchgani is where I am my truest self!" I announced to my sister and father.

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I feel more clear-headed, I can breathe and think, and I even WANT to go on walks here. This is my true home where I belong. City life just fogs up my brain and makes me lethargic and tired."

I fondly considered a future where the hills would be my home as I energetically lived life as a new and improved version of Sue. If I had thought of it, I would have broken into a chorus of 'BOORN FREE AS FREE AS THE WIND BLOWS AS FREE AS THE GRASS GROOOWS BORN FREE TO FOLLOW YOUR HEART!' Unfortunately, I didn't think of it then. (Fortunately, from my sister's perspective.)

Unseen by me, the Creatures of Panchgani snickered in the background.

Chapter 1: Leaping Lizards 

I sat on the window sill drinking my chai and soaking in the sunset when suddenly two frisky lizards appeared close to me. I jumped up, spilling my chai and grabbing at my phone and bag to get them out of the way. "I'm not SCARED of lizards- I don't mind them when they're calmly hanging out on the ceiling. It's only when they're frisky that I get worried." My dad chased them out (without much drama, as compared to the past when chasing lizards out usually involved flinging pots of hot water and removing corpses), and I resumed my at-one-with-nature persona.

Chapter 2: Nature Documentary Outside Our Window 

"OHMYGOSH did you see that? It's practically a baby alligator!!" (Who me, a drama queen?) It was a few minutes later, and our window was safely shut, but on the outside, a giant lizard appeared eating large winged insects. "Eek, that's disgusting!" We could hear the flutter of insect wings and the lizard feasting on them. "Gross! That is HUGE!" "Just close the curtains!" my dad said, and came over and drew them shut. With the uglier side of nature out of sight, we continued our conversation.

Chapter 3: Network Magic vs. The Wild 

"I'm not getting enough network to download an image on Whatsapp." I wandered around the house trying to find the Internet sweet spot. I needed to see that image. Finally I realized my only option was to go out. With the vision of that large lizard fresh in my mind, I was extremely reluctant, but the allure of the Network Magic was strong too. I decided to do a quick foray outside and run back in. "I've practically grown up here. What am I scared of?" I walked out with my phone into the pitch-black night, my ears strained to hear sounds of the giant lizard or any other dangerous creature. The terrifying flutter of unseen insects almost unnerved me (where there are fluttering insects, there are giant lizards) but as I walked down the path, I almost stepped on something ALIVE.. And I gave up on network and fled inside locking the door behind me.

Chapter 4: The Unnerving Incident of The Moth in the Night-time 

My sister and I retired to our bedroom for the night. There was cold air coming in from the window, so I went to shut it. A large motionless moth was attached to the screen, and a few cockroach-looking insects jumped in as I opened the screen to shut the outer window. "Eugghh. I mean, no big deal." One of them jumped into my sister's bag but I didn't want to freak her out in case she expected me to help her de-insect her bag. "It's just a little one. No biggie." She only half-believed me and had her own little freak-out moment while I chortled from the safety of my bed.

After we were both in our beds, we began to hear another noise. The moth had awoken, and was trapped between the screen and the closed glass window.

Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap.

We tried to ignore it for a while, but the flapping was incessant. Why not just let it out, you say? Well, if I opened the screen, it would most likely come rushing into our room, with every other creepy insect that was hanging out in that space. And that was a risk I was just not willing to take.

Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap. Flap-flap-flap.

Why did I feel like an animal-torturer? It's not like it couldn't breathe or anything.

Finally I gave up. I knew what my other option was, I just hadn't wanted to face it. It was to go outside the house in the dark and open the window from the outside. It had to be done, and I had to be the one. (Not because I'm braver - on the contrary, I usually leave all insect-related activities to my roommates. But this time my sister was sick, burning up with fever, so I had no excuse.)

I crept out of the house using my phone flashlight. It was past 11 pm and my dad was snoring in the next room. I had played it all out in my head. It was no big deal. I kept my eyes on the ground praying I wouldn't step on anything, then reached the side of the house, and opened the window. But the moth wouldn't move for a few seconds.

THEN IT DID. It flew out.... DIRECTLY INTO MY FACE AND LONG OPEN HAIR! I did what anyone would do in such a situation - I freaked out, my hands flailing and trying to get it out, and let out a few loud choice bad words. Then I ran back in the house, my pulse racing and my heart pounding in my chest.

"I heard you saying some bad words," remarked my sister, instead of congratulating me on my bravery. We reflected a few moments on how bad words aren't sins if they slip out accidentally, but how they can still cause scandal to some people, so I should probably work a little harder at finding replacement words for moments of stress and terror. I also gave thanks that my dad slept through it all, and that no one other than my sister had been there to witness that moment.


I still think Panchgani is my true home. However I also have come to the conclusion that I am really a city girl at heart, and pretending to be a country girl will probably give me heart failure one day.

Related Reading

A Tale of a Mouse in da House 

A Horrific Evening of Nightmares Come True

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Delicate Touches of Love

I’ve often struggled to understand how we can experience God’s love apart from the knowledge that He suffered and died on a Cross for us 2000 years ago. Isn’t that enough, ask my religious readers. Well, yes, but as a young woman alive in 2018, every now and again I want to FEEL God’s love HERE and NOW.

 But if we know our theology well, we know that just because God loves us doesn’t mean that He gives us everything we ask for, nor does He take away every suffering in our life. On the contrary, He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. His blessings come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and not all are easily recognizable as blessings. And yet they all are. He can and will bring good out of every uncomfortable and unexpected twist and turn of our lives if we offer everything to Him, including getting stuck in traffic, a baby up crying all night, a disappointment in our love lives or careers or families, ants in our kitchen, and everything in between. Even good feelings are not guaranteed in our walk with the Lord.

But we walk with the hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, that our desires for love will be fully met, that everything that is wrong will be made right. ‘I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.’ Romans 8:18

But the Christian walk isn’t just pain and suffering and carrying our cross. God IS a Lover, if an unconventional One, and He desires to lavish His love on us. He allows us to suffer, and asks us to meet Him in that suffering, but He also wants to meet us in the little joys of life. I read a cool story which I can’t look up right now – I think it was about Saint John of the Cross exhausted and starving in the desert, and how he found a bunch of asparagus that he loved to eat tied up under a bush in the desert. In Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography, she writes about how she begged the Lord for snow on the day she received her habit , and against all odds, it snowed!

This walk on earth is a pilgrimage, and a journey. It is not home, we are not in heaven yet (and woe to us if we forget that). But along this path, God leaves little tender signs of His love… if only we will ask for them or notice them.

Last weekend I was feeling a little low. There were a few different circumstances of my life that ganged up on me, and left me feeling alone and abandoned. It was just a weekend, not my whole life, but it was a tough weekend. In the midst of that, I called out to the Lord and just asked Him to comfort and console me. I kept busy, did the tasks God had given me to do, but my heart continued to hurt, and I just longed to be loved. I remember thinking of Panchgani, a beautiful place in the hills that my family usually visits in the summer, and wishing I could be there – a place where I always felt loved and close to the Lord.

A few days later my dad texted, “Anyone wants to go to Panchgani?” We thought he was joking because he and my mum had just been there the previous week, and it was unlikely he was going to return so soon. But he was serious – he had some urgent tasks to do there, and he arranged his dates so that my sister and I could go with him, and be back in time for school on Tuesday.

And so here I sit on the edge of a cliff, feeling filled and loved and content and at peace, knowing that I have to be back tomorrow and continue to fight the good fight, but content to be loved by the Lord for this brief moment, knowing that this is a glimpse of heaven, that this is a sign of His intimate, personal love for ME with my Panchgani-hungry heart.

I went on a retreat three years ago where the retreat speakers told us, “Every day ask the Lord – ‘Show me your love today’. And then look out for those signs of His love.” I often forget to ask or to look because I focus of the struggles. But I think that He would like me to meet Him in His sweet gestures of love too. Because suffering and struggles and discomfort can be borne so much more easily when you know that there is One who loves you at your side.

Related Reading 

Jesus Knows My Love Language

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Blog Post Categories

I've realized I have written a LOT over the last six years. Some blog posts deserve to be retrieved and re-shared, and some don't. Click on each category title to see all the articles with that tag. I've selected a few articles to give you a taste, but there are a lot more under each category. If you like my blog, please like, share and comment on the posts that strike a chord. And also consider becoming a patron!

-----Being Single----

9QT: 9 Things Christian Singles Are Secretly Afraid Of

1. That if we are too 'content to be single', God might take us at our word, and decide to leave us that way. Someone actually said that to me once when I said "I'm pretty happy being single.""Noooo!"she shouted, "Don't say that! God will never send you anyone!" We KNOW that's not how God works, but it's a little superstitious fear. Or maybe we think if there are not enough eligible guys going around, then God will choose the girls who are more needy. And since I'm independent and strong, I CAN survive, so I don't get picked. 

The Questions You Always Had about Christian Women’s Households

Many people in India are shocked to hear that I do not live with my parents even though we live in the same city. I live in a flat with three other women (at the moment, it changes), down the road from the school at which my team serves. There are usually amazed questions that we have all faced from people who think only college students would choose a life like that, and can’t imagine what our life looks like. So here you go, some common questions (plus some we made up) and our honest answers.

Dr. Beth on the Chronic Singleness Disorder

Dr. Beth, 8 (pad and pen in hand): Can you tell me your name and the sickness that you have?

Me: My name is Humility and I suffer from chronic singleness. What can you do for me, Dr. Beth?

Dr. Beth: Well.. I need to ask you. When you watch shows about couples, do you feel sad for yourself, or good for the other person?

Me: I feel good for them, but I also feel bad for myself

Life Begins when You Meet the Man of Your Dreams

Just kidding! Of course it doesn't! (Sorry, this is not a relationship or engagement announcement.)

REAL life begins when you die.

So I was just thinking about how my early life plans were to marry early and have a bunch of kids (just to be counter-cultural, plus it sounded romantic). If I had to think about my life at almost 28 when I was 14, I would have been horrified to think that I was still single with no prospects of marriage in sight. Pretty much all my dreams of a future involved a Special Someone.

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For) 

In urban India, 27 is pretty much your last chance for people to consider you marriageable (at least if you're a girl.) After that, you've moved to the Desperate and I Wonder What's Wrong With Her shelf. Also, in India, marriage is not considered an option, or a good thing that happens if it happens. In fact, 'if it happens', is just not an acceptable phrase. One MAKES it happen. You're of marriageable age? Then get married, beta! Of course I come from the Great Land of Arranged Marriages, or Glorified Set-Ups, whichever degree of control or involvement your family exerts.

How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love

On my FB newsfeed (aka my reading list) appeared a New York Times article called 'To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This'. It is about a study basically saying that you can make men and women fall in love by using a set method. In the study, 'a heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.' And apparently that's enough to fall in love.

Where's MY Person?

A couple of months ago I was going through one of those self-pity days, where it seems as if being single was the single most unfair fact of any person's existence (never mind terminal illnesses, deaths of loved ones, mental illness, or financial struggles).

I started complaining to the Lord, which is what I do, when I'm in a bad mood. "I have to do so much of travelling, up and down, dragging my heavy bags along, ALL ALONE. Couples are always looking out for each other. One can watch the bags while the other one goes to the loo. I have to drag all my bags into the stall with me."

----- Romance and Relationships -----

A Real-Life Catholic Love Story 

Genevieve and Thomas came from very different worlds. Growing up in DC in a divorced Catholic family, Genevieve had spent most of her teenage and young adult years constantly in a relationship and living the party lifestyle. The strict judgmental God she knew had no place in her life except for Sunday mornings. “Maybe one day in my thirties or forties I will prioritize my faith. But I’m young now!”

Meanwhile Thomas, a young seminarian from Kansas, was struggling with his desire for marriage and family. He had always had this desire, but he also had a deeply wounded perspective of God as a demanding God who wanted him to sacrifice everything he desired in order to win His love. 

What Not To Look For in an Indian Spouse 

I recently achieved the heights of my ambition a few months ago when someone texted me to ask if I could ‘look for someone for his brother’. I don’t know what I did to deserve this honour. I was under the impression that you had to be a middle-aged auntie with an opinion about everything to have that kind of know-how. Then again I’m practically 32 and I definitely have an opinion about everything, so I suppose it makes sense. Not to mention, I’m kind of a church lady. 

On Vocations, Discernment and Asking Girls on Dates

I came across a couple of interesting articles: Two Hard-Won Tips For Your DiscernmentThe whole discernment anxiety thing is largely a Catholic problem- what is God calling me to? Priesthood or Married Life? Consecrated Single Life or Religious Life? Diocesan Priesthood or Religious Priesthood? Religious Life or Married Life? Pick one! Quick!

Hand-Holding and Other Such Indecent Behaviour

I remember as a little kid companiably holding my cousin's hand as we walked home from Sunday School. Through most of my childhood, my parents would go on walks with one or more of their kids, and we often held hands as we walked. We're not a super physically affectionate kind of family, but that was one form of affection that was normal to us.

-----Introvert Life----- 

How an Introvert Socializes

First of all, introverts don’t hate people. We just need to plan when, where, how, and for how long we want to be with them. So, here’s a list of what works and what doesn't for this particular introvert.

The Strange Effect Weddings Have on Me

Since last July I have been in the Age of Weddings. One of my closest friends married my cousin, another friend married another cousin, and then another cousin got hitched, and an uncle and now a brother... You get the idea. I used to think weddings were super fascinating, with all their details- bridesmaids' dresses and choice of hymns, first dance, colour schemes, bridal entourage photo shoots, etc. Partly coloured by watching too many Hollywood rom-coms at a young age, no doubt (Runaway Bride, 27 Dresses, The Wedding Planner... for all the broken marriages, looks like Hollywood is still pretty obsessed with weddings). 

Thoughts of an Introvert at a Party

"A party that starts at 8.30 pm? That's almost bedtime! Why would any party START at 8.30?"
"I'm so tired. So tired. Sooo tiiired."
"Didn't I just read an article about introverts that said introverts can survive on two to three social occasions per week.. I've been in four social situations JUST TODAY!"

An INTJ's Guide to Praise and Worship

As an INTJ who grew up in the Charismatic Renewal, I have faced and battled with many of the natural clashes of this personality with a very demonstrative and uninhibited style of prayer. My theory is that 'T' (thinking) type personalities gravitate more towards more structured, less demonstrative and intellectual forms of prayer like Adoration, the Rosary, Lectio Divina (reflect and share about bible passages.. yes, please!), etc, and 'F' (feeling) type personalities gravitate towards more ‘touchy-feely’ forms of prayer.

-----The Funnies-----


Are you sure you are ready for this?

I’m not sure I am. Perhaps it is too soon.

A Tale of a Mouse in da House

There comes a time in every woman's existence where she looks deep into herself, searches her soul and asks:

'Which is worse- a live mouse or a dead mouse?'

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Minutes: The Christian Version

I love to tell people what is wrong with them, how to live their lives and how to achieve true happiness. In other words, be bossy, condescending and overall annoying. People say guys can’t listen to a problem without immediately jumping in and giving advice.

Childhood Memories that Turn out to be Hilarious

When we were kids, our family used to go up to close by hill station every summer for a couple of weeks. We would pack our bags, be up super early, stumble around, and gagging, force the bitter Avomine pill down our throats. All five kids would go down to the car, half asleep… and then we would wait for about 20 minutes while my dad set up our security system.

-----God Stuff----

The Tale of the Free Wedding Dress

“Let’s go wedding dress shopping!” A normal statement for a maid of honour to make to a bride-to-be. But this wasn’t a normal situation. Kristi* and Annie* were Americans, working as full-time Catholic volunteers in Taiwan and India, respectively, and the conversation was happening in the Philippines. And the bride wanted a free wedding dress.

13 Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Choose Christ

Most of us who had religious parents have semi-funny and semi-frustrated stories of how our parents made us do religious stuff against our will when we were kids. Remember when we HAD to say the rosary every time we travelled on family holidays, only all the kids had strong motion sickness medicine so everyone would start slurring and fall asleep between the Hail Mary and Holy Mary EVERY TIME? 

Broken Phones and Unknown Futures

A couple of days ago I broke my phone. Again. It just slipped out of my hand… Okay, let’s be honest, I was juggling too many things, didn’t want to bother putting them down, and trying to open a door that was stuck, so of course I dropped it. I’ve dropped it several times over the past two years that I’ve owned it, but the case always seemed to protect it. Not this time. This time the screen turned to white. The phrase that flashed across my mind was one I had seen the last time I googled broken iPhones. It’s an ominous phrase….

The White Screen of Death. (shudder)

Jesus Knows My Love Language

I went for Confession two weeks ago, and my penance was unexpected. "Ask God to let you experience His love more. Maybe you are turning to some of your sins, because you don't fully believe God's love can satisfy."

Where was God when the Earthquake hit Nepal?

Inevitably when it comes to death and suffering or anything out of our control, our thoughts also turn to God. And we wrestle with some difficult questions.

"Why did God allow this? Was he not ABLE to stop it? Was he not MERCIFUL enough to prevent such suffering if He could? Or did He not KNOW?"


A Glimpse into the World of Siblings

People who don't have siblings might assume that siblings fight over toys or possessions. But the reality is much stranger. These are some of the things my siblings and I fought over:
  • Who got the chipped plate- the Chipped Plate was the Plate of Shame. No one wanted to land up with the Chipped Plate. So the sibling whose job it was to lay the table, would carefully place it at the seat of the sibling they were most mad at.
Small Family = Happy Family... Really?

Or the root of all India’s problems is TOO MANY CHILDREN. Or the population. Overpopulation, population control, population problems, we never heard the end of it. To the point that, any family that had more than two kids is considered unpatriotic, anti-progress, and probably kinda uneducated.

The other day my sister said to me, "I can't think of a good reason to tell people they should have children. I mean, I think they should, but rationally, why?" I thought about it. From a secular perspective, saying 'God said go forth and multiply' didn't sound very convincing. Besides again, why DID He?Biologically, to carry on the human race, but hey, there are plenty of people who exist already, so doesn't look like the human race is going to die out any time soon. Carrying on the family name? Maybe that's important to some people... like European royalty, maybe?


How Not To React to the Sex Abuse Scandal in the Church

If you follow American Catholic media at all, and even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard some shocking news in the past few weeks – specifically revelations in a Pennsylvania grand jury report about decades of abuse and cover-up by predator priests and church official as well as credible sex abuse allegations against now-ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Euggh. How do we even react to this news?

Rad-Trads, Liberals, and Finding Balance in the Catholic Church

I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post about Catholic Camps, people who identify themselves as liberals or traditionalists. My views haven't changed, but once again I've been thinking more about this topic. It seems like most Catholics fall into one or other extreme, and lose track of the holy balance God is calling us to. Why does it worry me? Because both sides can lead others astray, and both have loud voices and influence on the faith of simple uncatechized Catholics, and people joining the Church, who don't know what to think. And it seems like leaders of both extremes are leading their flocks astray.

When I Get Tired of Being Catholic

Sometimes (especially when I am sleep-deprived and am feeling swamped by negativity), I get so tired of the Catholic Church. Okay, that's not totally true. I get tired of the local branch of the Catholic Church- my parish, and everything involved with it.

One of the homilies Catholics hear a lot is the 'We are the Church' homily. It goes something like this- 'Look at the letters CH_ _CH. What is missing? U R! The Church is nothing without the people! The Church is not just the priests and the sisters! You are the Church!' Every time I hear that I have mixed feelings, because we ARE the Church, but... the Church is not us.


Where do I even start with this one? First of all, I really am Indian. I promise. I may have some Portuguese and French-Lebanese blood (don't ask), but I'm still mostly Indian. (Definitely not pure-blood though.) However, my excuse for the following is of course the fact that India was a British colony for about three hundred years. Somewhere in my ancestry, my family became more British than Indian, and my very strange family culture is the result.

Fluency in English is the White Privilege of India

English privilege. We grew up with it. With a much-coveted Convent education, jokes mocking those who spoke ‘broken’ English were too common. ‘On the light’ Ha ha! That’s ‘PUT on the light, or SWITCH on the light!’ ‘I’ll tell to Miss that you are teasing me!” “That’s ‘I’ll TELL Miss’, not ‘tell TO’! Gosh!” But practically everyone in school spoke ‘broken’ English at the beginning, because it was their second language. They came as little four year olds from homes where Marathi or Hindi was spoken, and were whipped (not literally) into English fluency through twelve years at an English medium school.

A Catholic Perspective on Arranged Marriages 

The concept of arranged marriages is as fascinating and repulsive to the Western world, as it is natural and normal to most of India. Most of my friends’ parents had arranged marriages, most likely all of their ancestors before them. Some of my schoolmates, and many of the students I’ve given talks to have shared that arranged marriages are a normal part of their family culture, and expected of them as well. Surprisingly, many Catholics from more traditionally Indian cultures have also retained this custom.

Save Us from Social Embarrassment

I once heard a priest make an ad-lib prayer at the end of Mass, and I just remember the phrase, “Save your people from social embarrassment”. “What the heck is that supposed to mean?” was my immediate holy thought. 

The Great Indian Road Race

Like most young (I use the term loosely) middle class adults in big Indian cities, I spend a lot of time zooming around the streets on my two-wheeler (aka moped by non-Indians). I have often found myself thinking how well Indian roads would lend themselves to an excellent video game.

All of us in India know that ‘conversions’ are a very controversial and sensitive issue. Maybe because religion is a very integral part of how most Indians identify themselves, a change of religion can cause a lot of emotional reactions. The religion you are born into is almost seen as your identity, quite apart from your personal beliefs.


My Experiences with Anxiety and Peace

A couple of days ago, I had a vivid dream. In it, I was hurtling forward in a plane that was trying to land, but couldn't find a place to stop, towards... wait for it... the end of the world.

Yes. Subtle, my dreams are not.

The Antidotes to Anxiety

A small problem – someone mad at me about something, a plan that goes awry, an unpleasant task that I’m avoiding, news about Trump, or hearing about reasonable people who are suspicious of Pope Francis – suddenly begins to feel like a huge problem, a symptom of a larger disease, a doomsday scenario, with everything crashing and burning and pointing to the truth that there is no hope and things are never going to change.


The Poison We All Breathe

I live in a big Indian city, surrounded by pollution-saturated air. We breathe it in as a matter of course, and consider it normal life to regularly get sick, to have skin break outs and  grimy hair after being out in the traffic for a while, to have breathing problems, especially in the winter. But a couple times a year, my family heads to the hills, and suddenly everything feels different. Our bodies start feeling healthy and energetic again, we breathe deeply of the fresh, clean, pure, cool air, and our sleep is sounder, deeper and more refreshing.

When You Are in a Dark Place and Can’t Get Out

I’m so confused. I’m so annoyed with myself. Everything seems hazy. I feel like there’s something wrong with me, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I wasted the whole day, and yet I don’t know what I should have been doing… 

...I feel lost and empty. I’ve been trying to fill myself with food... I feel so unhappy. And I don’t know what to do with this feeling. I feel like there’s nothing I can do to change this feeling.

-----Learning To Love-----

How To Love Well - Some Practical Tips

One thing that the world in general seems to agree about is that love is important. Love your kids, love your family, love your spouse, love your neighbour, love the poor, love your enemies, (okay, perhaps that one isn’t as popular). But what we often don’t seem to know is HOW to love, and how to help someone FEEL loved.

But here's the thing. We NEED hugs. I need hugs.

Well, we need whatever a hug really is. What is a hug? What's happens when one person envelops another in their arms?

Avoiding Eye Contact and Other Ways to Kill Your Soul

Are you a good person? Yeah, me too. I’m basically a good person. Aren’t we all? Most people think of themselves as good, as their particular sins as somewhat excusable and insignificant, and everyone else’s as shocking and reprehensible.  But in my walk with Christ, I have learned a life-changing truth. And that is, that each of us is capable of becoming either a monster or a saint by the little choices we make each day.