Thursday, 31 October 2019

Wedding Month Break

Much as I love you guys, and much as I am committed to this blog, and especially my patrons, there comes a time in every blogger's life where she must take a break and disappear from the online world so she can be fully present to her REAL LIFE OF GETTING MARRIED AND GOING ON A HONEYMOON AND MOVING TO A NEW HOME AND CITY WITH HER HUSBAND!

So goodbye for a month! I'll see you all in December hopefully with socially awkward wedding stories and pics. Meanwhile, I leave you with these wonderful wedding memes.

I sent this to Joel. Way to spoil an actual emotional moment :-) Now he'll remember this when I'm walking down the aisle, and have to work on not laughing instead.

Reminder to everyone: It's not 'the bride's day'. 

And everything else the bride chooses. Also, pro-tip, once something is bought, hold back that honest opinion, and find something nice to say. 

 Seriously, Indian weddings are just a whole different level of intense. Another way my family was different - all my siblings had 200 or less guests at their wedding. Mine... will be different.

Indian insider joke: Typically caterers are paid per plate, even if you put almost nothing on the plate. So for goodness sake, guests, don't take a separate plate for your two year old! And don't take a second plate for yourself because you changed your mind and want more food. 

That's all folks! Pray for us!

Related Reading

The Strange Effect Weddings Have on Me 

When Your Facebook Feed Explodes with Weddings 

Why I Can’t Stand Marriage Jokes

Misconceptions: Marriage is Just a Piece of Paper

Monday, 21 October 2019

A Little Story on World Mission Sunday

About a month ago, my fiance, my parents and my ten year old niece went on a little mini-vacation to the hills, a couple of hours out of the big city. We often retreat there, but not typically in the monsoons. It was cold and rainy, and we stayed indoors most of the time, but it was still a special time (is every shared holiday special when you're in love?) apart from my niece sticking to us like a leech because she had been secretly enlisted as a chaperone by my mum and my other niece, and she took her responsibility VERY seriously.

One day we went out for a meal to the town. Joel and I remembered some yummy bhakri (a kind of local bread) and chicken curry from our trip in January, so we took my parents and niece out to share our experience. We found a restaurant willing to make us hot, fresh bhakris, perfect for a rainy day.

As we waited for our meal, my mother suggested that we each share a story of some time in our life that we experienced God's presence or miracles. Typical of  my mum, finding a way to bring Jesus into a conversation. We were all happy to share, though I had to search my memory for a story I hadn't shared with them before. (I am a notorious chatterbox and sharer in my family, they've never had to complain they don't know what's going on in my life. Lucky them.)

I told a story from my time in the Philippines, Joel shared his own conversion story from medical college, and even my ten year old niece shared a little story from her own life. My parents shared too, and then the waiter, a young man with a simple, honest face, brought out our steaming and delicious-smelling meal. We made the sign of the Cross, blessed the food, and began our meal. It was as tasty as we had hoped.

As we ended our meal, and walked out of the restaurant,  we thanked the waiter. To our utter surprise, he smiled and said, "Praise the Lord." We smiled back and headed out to the car. "I guess he is a Christian!" The reason why we were so surprised is because Christians are a small minority in India, and in our city, usually a very specific socio-economic group - educated, English-speakers, often from Goa and Mumbai. This young man was obviously a local Marathi-speaker. We were surprised and curious.

A couple of days later, Joel and I returned to the restaurant, partly for the bhakri and chicken curry, and partly to talk to the young man. He seemed happy to see us, and after the meal, Joel, who is a native Marathi-speaker himself, had a long conversation with the young man.

It turned out he had come to faith through another relative who had become a Christian, and was obviously very committed to Jesus. He said he woke up every morning and read the bible for two hours before coming to work and working all day until late in the night. He didn't have a day off at his job, and so he hadn't found a church to go to, but he used to attend a church in his hometown.

"How did you know we were Christians?" we asked him. "I understand a lot of English, even though I can't speak it, and I heard you all talking about Jesus," he replied in Marathi. We hadn't even realized he was there when we were sharing, much less that he could understand us.

"Is your bible a Marathi bible?" I nudged Joel to ask him.

"No, it's Hindi."

"Would you like a Marathi one?"

He said he would, so we took down his name and number, and told him we would find one to send him later. After we said goodbye, I suddenly remembered that a friend had told me he was sending me two Marathi bibles to use in my ministry, except that I had no idea what to do with them. I guess God knew what I could do with them.

It was such a short and simple encounter, but it blessed me so much. Today is World Mission Sunday, and in his message, Pope Francis wrote:

'This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant.'

I was reminded of the need to notice and connect with the people around me, something that it's easy for introverts to forget to do. Even though talking to strangers may not be something I do as easily as others, God can still use me if I allow Him to.

'This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation.'

I was reminded that God does not exclude anyone, and that neither should I. Jesus didn't come only for people who look like me, or talk like me, or who speak only the same language as I do. His love goes beyond the walls and boundaries I build in my own mind. As I have experienced freedom and mercy through my relationship with Him, so too have others from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. As I need His grace for my bad days and difficult relationships and sinful inclinations, so do they.

It's not always easy to know how to practically share BOTH the truth and the mercy of Jesus in a sensitive but effective way. But that doesn't mean it's not possible. I think it starts with an awareness of my own privilege (my treasure!), an openness to encounter, a desire to see people become who they were meant to be, and a sincere invitation to the Holy Spirit to guide me and use me every day. The harvest is plentiful, willing laborers are few. Come. Holy Spirit!

Related Reading

Full Message for World Mission Sunday

Should Conversions Be Illegal?

Non-Christians in Heaven: Ten Catholic Teaching Most Indian Catholics Get Wrong

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Seven Conversations To Have Before Deciding to Marry Someone

"True Words"by pxlline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As you might have noticed, I love giving romance and relationship advice, despite the fact that I entered my first and only relationship at the wise and mature age of 32. Does that stop me? No way! I have written about arranged marriages, stages of a relationship, reasons to get married, what not to look for in an Indian spouse, and a lot more.

I currently have a few friends who are in serious relationships. They are intentionally trying to get to know the other person in order to discern whether or not God is calling them to a lifelong commitment. 

The thing is, it's hard to REALLY get to know someone, especially when you don't have good guidance, tools, or anyone walking you through the process. Ideally, it would be good to have a spiritual director or mentor who you can talk to about your discernment. But sometimes those people may not themselves have a good idea of what to ask. "Is he a good boy? No bad habits? God-fearing? Well-settled? Go for it! You can't wait forever!" That's not very helpful. 

So here a few ideas for topics to broach before you make that final decision:

1. Do you or have you ever struggled with pornography use or any kind of sexual sin? How long ago? Are you trying to stop, and how can I support you in this? Not exactly first date conversation starters, but it needs to be talked about once you are getting serious. These are the kind of things that you must talk about honestly, or it will come up and sabotage your relationship*. You need to be honest about your own struggles too. 

Red flags: Behaving as if porn and masturbation are no big deal, no real repentance, being disgusted or repelled by hearing about your struggles with sin.

2. If you had to choose between your parents' wishes and mine, which would you choose? In India, this question seems almost unfair. Why should you make someone choose between their parents and you? It doesn't have to be one or the other, does it?

Well, it kind of does, to some extent. In the bible it says, 'Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father, and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' (Eph 5:31) There is a necessary leaving (emotional and often physical) that must happen in order for a new unit and family to be created.

This isn't easy for either man or woman who are attached to their parents and family and childhood home. It isn't easy for the parents either. But we have seen what happens when this leaving doesn't happen. Marriages are torn apart by divided loyalties, by men unwilling to stand up to their parents, or women who run home to mama every time they're having a fight. This does NOT mean it's ever okay to treat one's parents with disrespect. 

Red flags: Expecting you to 'adjust' every time the parents ask or expect something, ignoring your reservations or boundaries

3. Are you willing to care for my parents if and when they are old, sick, or need us? This is the flip side to the same question, and not something everyone thinks about in the midst of romance and dating. Making a lifelong commitment to someone means helping them carry their burdens, sharing their struggles and difficulties and responsibilities in life too. This goes for both sets of parents. 

Red flags: Avoiding answering the question, assuming someone else will do it or it won't be necessary.

4. Do you tend towards depression, anxiety, anger, suicidal thoughts, isolation, or anything else that affects your normal functioning and relationships? How bad has it been? Have you been through any major trauma in your life? How have you been dealing with it? Are you open to going to counselling? Some of these things may have come up already, you may have seen signs of it. Most people do or will struggle with one or other of these things to some extent. There is no shame in having struggles. The problem is when people are not willing to get the help they need. 

Red flags: Denying there is a problem, blaming everyone else, thinking counselling is not for them. On the flip side, telling you to be positive or just get over it when you share your ongoing struggles

5. Do you have other healthy friendships and relationships in your life? Does the other person have friends who they are able to talk to about deep stuff? Do they have mentor figures in their life? Are they open to advice and correction? If you are their everything, you will have no support system when the two of you have problems. 

Red flags: Having no friends, unwilling to seek out friends or mentors

6. Do you have any disordered attachments or addictions? How do you deal with them? It could be anything from being unable to go a few seconds without checking the phone, addictions to food, shopping, staying up late, being a workaholic, being a control freak or obsessive about cleanliness. It could be needing to constantly buy the latest phone, motorcycle or fashion styles. It could be video games, all-night DOTA sessions, constant Netflix binges.

There's nothing wrong with hobbies, leisure activities or enjoying the good things in life. But you will know it is an unhealthy attachment if your partner CAN'T do without it, gets angry or irritable if he or she can't have it, or if it regularly interferes with their normal duties and responsibilities, and with their relationship with you and with God.

Red flags: Refusal to acknowledge an attachment is out of control, or needs to be worked on, no plan to grow in this area

7. Do you have a prayer life? This goes beyond being 'god-fearing', willing to go to Mass, and fulfill basic obligations. It goes beyond praying the Rosary every day too, even thought that is a good practice. When the storms of life come, and they will, you both need to be rooted in something bigger than yourself.

God is the firmest foundation for a marriage, and the best way to build your life on that foundation is by setting aside time to seek Him every day. It is in honest regular daily prayer that God convicts, guides, strengthens, heals, and does the work in our partner that we cannot do. It doesn't mean that we have the 'perfect' prayer life, but that both are willing to make it a priority.

Red flags: Unwillingness to commit to prayer, suggestion that you can be the 'spiritual' one in the relationship

What other crucial conversations would you advise dating couples to have?

*Check out Fight The New Drug for more information about why pornography use hurts relationships.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The SAHM Series: Tips and Advice from Stay-At-Home-Mums (Part 3 of 3)

We heard the why and the how over the last two weeks. What’s next? Well, choosing to stay at home or work from home is a pretty big decision for most couples, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not everyone is in a position to make that choice. There may be some families who are managing to balance work, home and family time well, with both parents working outside the home. But for those who are feeling a tug towards SAHM life, but are not sure how to make the decision, here is some advice from those who are already doing it.

Anna* (mother of a 6yo and 1yo) encourages moms to try being a SAHM for the first five years of their children’s lives. 

- “Financial commitments keep most moms working. But I’d suggest that if you can manage to make ends meet on your husband's salary, please give up your job and cherish these years when your kids are growing. They need you in the first five years of their life, perhaps more than in their teens. We as moms can always get back to working after a gap as many companies are realising the fact that children need their mothers.

 - “Also, once they are a bit grown up, start off with a part time job as it's always good to be there for your child. Work from home is a good option but getting a part-time job is better as it gives you the freedom when you move out and also help you socialize and keep in touch with the world.”

After being primarily at home for the past five years, Anna is exploring the option of giving French tuitions this year. Anna’s passion is Finance and she would love to get back to that as long as she has work hours that allow her to get home at the same time as her kids return from school.

Among other tips, Jeanne* (mother of a 2yo & 9mo) encourages SAHMs to seek the active support of their husbands:

- "Pray about it if you're undecided."

- "Don't lose your close girl friends (even the single ones)."

- "Find time each week to do things that make you feel fulfilled."

- "Ask your husband to consciously appreciate you and the work you are doing."

Kiersten (mother of a 5mo) reminds SAHMs that life will not always go according to plan, and they need to prioritize self-care:

- “Know that being a SAHM is challenging and incredibly rewarding, sometimes in unexpected ways. Mommy bloggers and Pinterest boards sometimes make it seem like it’s easy and that all you need is a routine and ‘These Top 5 Tips’. But children, and infants especially, don’t always operate according to plan.”

For Kiersten, there were days when she couldn’t shower because she was just too tired. In the early days especially, when her child took a nap, she often had to choose between feeding herself, showering, and napping. But she reminds SAHMs that self-care is important too.

- “Listen to your body and do what it needs. Drink lots of water.”

- “It is easy to put your own needs on the backburner when you’re caring for someone else. But you have to remember to take care of yourself, too. Otherwise you will burn out.”

 - “Remember that you are a person in your own right. Being a wife and/or mother is only part of your identity, and all parts of you deserve to be cared for.”

- “You have to know yourself. I’m an introvert, so staying home all day doesn’t bother me on most days. If you’re an extreme extrovert and thrive on interaction with other people, being a stay at home mom may not be the best choice for you. Or, maybe you’ll be more motivated than I am to get out and about with kid/s in tow and it will be awesome! Either way, that’s okay.”

- “Only you and your partner can decide what’s best for your family. Other people will have opinions, but that doesn’t mean you have to make your decisions based on what they think you should do. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want and work together to achieve that.” 

Kiersten wants women to remember that whatever they choose to do, there will be both good days and less than good days. Society places a lot of pressure on moms to always do the “right thing.” But most people may feel like they don’t know what they’re doing most of the time.

 -“Trust your intuition. It’s amazing how much your gut and heart know, things that your brain hasn’t figured out yet. Most of all, give yourself grace. Being a mom is hard, but so incredibly worth it.”

Adele advises a deeper rooting of one’s identity in the unchanging reality of God’s love: 

- “Count the cost - the emotional cost, not just the financial cost.”

 - “Be sure of who you are in Christ before making any huge life changes like getting pregnant/starting/ending a job/relocation, etc. The world is very, very quick to pull you down when you don't earn money /not contributing to the GDP. Once you know you're worth in Christ, you can stand firm in Him and be peaceful, safe and happy wherever He asks you to go.”

Venora (mother of a 6yo, 4yo and 10mo) was hesitant to give over-specific advice to young moms. “It's difficult to give advice to give since not everyone's circumstances are the same. But I'd say this-”

- “Don't let your fears stop you from fulfilling what God has placed on your heart. If He needs you to be an instrument as a stay at home parent, he will enable you, provide for you and the reward is far too great to comprehend. It also does not mean you will never go back to work later or that you will not use all your talents for the glory of God.”

- “Go forth in trust. I have found that God delights in those who obey His will.”

*Names changed

Recommended Reading 

The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3)

The SAHM Series: Are Stay-at-Home-Mums Happy? (Part 2 of 3)

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler

21 Tips for Survival Mode

Can Ambitious Women Be Happy at Home? (Comment thread)

The Anonymous Stay-at-Home Mom

Don't Carpe Diem

To The Mother with Only One Child

“Have You Ever Felt Like Being a Mother Has Ruined You?”

I Took a Month Off from Being a SAHM. Here’s What I Learned.