Where Logic Meets Love

A Short Note for My RSS Subscribers

Friday, September 30, 2011

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I stuck this at the end of a previous post, but just in case you didn't see it:

Since I changed my URL to faithpermeatinglife.com, if you are subscribed via RSS to my old URL it may take up to half a day for you to get my new posts. I suggest re-subscribing to the new URL if you want to see the posts as soon as they go up.

This link should allow you to re-subscribe using Google Reader. I'm not sure what other RSS aggregators people use.

I've also added the option of subscribing via e-mail. On the main site, just look for the "Subscribe By E-mail" box on the left side and enter your e-mail address.

Thanks for being awesome!

A Month Discussing Parenting: The Results

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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A Month Discussing Parenting: The Results | Faith Permeating Life

You may remember that Mike and I have been spending this month discussing parenting ideas. Every other day, I would send him an idea, my thoughts on it (why I thought we should do it or pros and cons), and a link or two to an article or a blog post of other parents' experiences with it. Then the following day we would discuss it.

The discussions went well, for the most part. Mike even said he's interested in continuing these kinds of discussions after the month ends. In some cases he'd be in agreement, no question; other times he wanted to think or learn more about it and discuss it again in the future; in a few cases he had a knee-jerk reaction to what he thought was a stupid idea, and we either talked through it or I just said that was fine.

Here are some of the decisions we made:
  • As a general rule, we won't have food and drink in our cars, except water. This rule will be bent if we're going on a long road trip, so the kids understand it's a special occasion.
  • We want to use a baby carrier/sling/something of that sort rather than a stroller. However, since we both have physical limitations (I have back/neck problems, Mike has shoulder problems), this is going to be more of a try-and-see idea.
  • We don't plan to keep pop (soda) in the house, but we won't forbid our kids from drinking it.
  • We won't ever force our kids to eat what we make for dinner. However, if they want to eat something different, they need to make it themselves (once they're at an age where they're able to do so). We plan to involve them in food prep as young as possible, even if ineffectively, so they learn and are comfortable in the kitchen.
  • If something really troublesome happens, like one of our belongings getting stolen by one of our kids, we don't want to place a lot of emphasis on finding out who did it and assigning blame. Our main goal will be to sit down with our kids and talk why what happened was bad and how it makes us feel. We want to focus on the literal and emotional consequences of their actions over the "punishment" consequences.
  • We don't plan to give our kids an allowance. Our kids will have regular chores they're expected to do as a member of the family, just like us; however, they can earn extra money by doing things beyond their regular chores.
  • Our kids will get three presents each for Christmas (with a fourth from Santa). Up to a certain age, they'll get one present for each year old they are.

If any of these are familiar to you, either as the parent or the child, please share your experiences in comments! It's always possible we will change our minds as we learn more or as we see what works with our kids.

Baptism: A Symbolic Beginning

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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Baptism: A Symbolic Beginning | Faith Permeating Life

I've mentioned before how awesome our parish priest is. His homilies are clear and accessible while being incredibly challenging and thought-provoking. He puts a strong emphasis on the importance of community and building the Kingdom of God on earth rather than simply following a prescribed set of rules and then waiting to get into heaven. And he treats the Mass as a sacred celebration rather than a magical incantation, which means he's not afraid of occasionally speaking "off-script," such as telling us which themes to listen for in the readings or poking fun at himself if he has to stop and check what he's supposed to say next.

This past weekend there was a baptism at one of the Masses I was at, and I loved the approach our priest took, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

He emphasized baptism as the moment that we welcome a new person into our community. He explained each of the symbols of baptism in turn -- the water, the chrism, the white cloth, the candle -- and where we see these symbols again in some of the other sacraments. I especially loved when he talked about the water as part of our life: We drink it, we cook with it, we wash our clothes with it, we wash ourselves with it, and we're largely made up of it, so it makes sense that we would use it to symbolize life, as in the beginning of life in the church community.

What I loved about this is that he clearly recognized baptism for what it is: a symbolic ritual.

I think some people are turned off by the idea of baptism when it's presented as some kind of "magic water" that is going to make someone into a good person or a "Christian," whatever your definition of that is. Obviously that is not the case, and I can see how a person might be cynical if he or she was baptized and no longer believes in God.

But our priest didn't treat it like a magical ritual that was saving the soul of the child he was baptizing. He emphasized each of the symbols that we as humans use to indicate that we are welcoming a new person into our community. And then he made it clear that it is the responsibility of the community to teach this new member about our faith.

This is what I mean about our priest. He doesn't let us off the hook. He doesn't take the attitude that if you receive the sacraments and come to Mass every week, then you're good to go. He is much more concerned about how we interact with each other, how we treat each other and teach each other and everyone who is not part of our church community.

That resonated with me as someone who doesn't see the Christian life as a series of rules, but as a model of love for our time on earth.

Before I wrap this up, I want to share a great analogy I once heard about Catholic baptism. Someone wanted to know why we baptize babies (i.e., welcome them into the church) right after they're born, but if an adult wants to become a member of the church, they have to go through lots of classes.

This writer explained that when his daughter was born, he and his wife welcomed her into the family without question. She was dependent on them for her physical needs and also for learning about the world. On the other hand, when her daughter found a man she wanted to marry, they weren't ready to welcome him into the family without knowing anything about him first. He was an independent adult who could articulate his thoughts and beliefs. They wanted to take some time to get to know him and introduce him to their family before they could love him like a son.

And so it is with baptism: the Catholic church treats babies and adults differently.

In some faiths, I know, baptism is more of a declaration of your belief (at an age when you're able to do so) than a ritual to become part of a church community. How do you personally view baptism?

On Marriage: Go Check It Out! (And Defining "Sex Before Marriage")

Sunday, September 25, 2011

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Hi folks,

I am bursting with post ideas, but I have NO TIME to write today. (My programming homework took, um... four hours longer than I anticipated.) So instead, I will point to my guest post on Analyfe, hosted by the lovely and talented Erin McNaughton. Go check it out, leave some love, and then spend some time around her awesome blog.

I also invite you to check out this post on saving sex for marriage on author John Green's Tumblr. You'll notice some similar themes from my posts Why Get Married? and NFP: The Real Deal, as well as Macha's excellent post on why virginity is not real.

Have a fabulous week!

My Happiness Arsenal

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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My Happiness Arsenal | Faith Permeating Life

Today didn't start out so well.

First off, I pulled a major muscle in my neck on Tuesday, so I've been in a lot of pain and can't turn my head to the right. I was running late this morning trying to get all my stuff together and brush my teeth. Then I realized when I got down to the car that I'd forgotten to take any pain meds, so Mike had to run back upstairs to get me some. I made it to the train on time, but they must have had problems with another train because it turned out they were running it as a local instead of an express (i.e., they were making allllll the stops). As I was figuring this out, a woman with a screaming child got on my train car, and she was yelling as loud as he was, trying to calm him down.

It's a testament to how calm and patient my happiness project has made me that I didn't write the day off as a loss right there. Fold my arms, slouch in my seat, and resign myself to having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Instead, I decided that I didn't want to have a terrible day, so I would do whatever I could to salvage it.

First, I put in my headphones, which are the amazing in-ear kind that double as earplugs.

I turned on a playlist of my favorite music loud enough to drown out the loud mother (who was at this point being overly enthusiastic and reassuring at a much greater volume than her son, who had basically calmed down).

Instead of enumerating all of the things that had gone wrong that morning, I forced myself to start listing things I was grateful for.

I am grateful Mike had two days off and could drive me to the train station.

I am grateful that I normally get to work earlier than I need to, so a 20-minute delay is no big deal.

I am grateful my boss is understanding and will let me work from home tomorrow because I can't drive myself.

I am grateful that my pain is not unbearable and I have medicine for it.

I am grateful I have such a caring husband, who took care of a bunch of tasks yesterday so I didn't have to stress about them.

I am grateful for my DivaCup, without which my day would have undoubtedly been a lot worse.

When I got off the train, I decided to take the bus [I am grateful I can afford to take the bus] so I wouldn't have to carry my purse on my bad shoulder. This kept me out of the morning cold and gave me time to just breathe and relax.

I was planning on making a cup of tea when I got to work, but by then I was totally calm and relaxed. I put the neck wrap I'd brought to work yesterday in the microwave, and I was set to start the day.

So those are the weapons in my happiness arsenal that I can pull out when I find my day not going so well: music, positive thinking, tea, physical comfort.

What are your secrets to turning a bad day into a good one? (Or at least an OK one?)

Your Passion is Beautiful

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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Your Passion is Beautiful | Faith Permeating Life

The Universe is sending me messages.

No, literally, I signed up to receive "Notes from the Universe" after hearing about them several times. At first I found them kind of weird and not terribly inspiring, I guess because I couldn't grasp the Universe having a personality and talking to me, although reframing them as "messages from God" helped with that.

Today's Note, though, took me by surprise.

To back up: On Saturday evening, Mike and I took a walk around our neighborhood after dinner while we filled each other in on our days. (He works on the weekends.) Saturday is when I'd put a bunch of work into this blog, plus I'd done some work on another big project I've started, and I explained my goals for the blog and that project to Mike.

Later, when we were back home, he told me that he loved hearing me so excited about these things. "That's why I fell in love with you," he said.

And it's true -- in college I was always working on big, exciting projects for this cause or that organization. Once I finally settled on a master's thesis topic, I would happily talk about it for hours with anyone who would listen.

It's been a while since I've thrown myself into so many projects at once -- not that surprising, since mono took me out of commission for so long. But it brings me alive, having something other than the day-to-day tasks to work on and toward.

Then, this morning's Note from the Universe said:
Always, Jessica, it's the one in motion, who has something to do, whether humble or grand, who is the epitome of gorgeous.
That made me smile. This is who I am at my best -- a person in motion!

And finally, I was finishing up re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince today when I came across this passage:

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS*
"But you've been too busy saving the Wizarding world," said Ginny, half laughing. "Well . . . I can't say I'm surprised. I knew this would happen in the end. I knew you wouldn't be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that's why I like you so much."
*END POTENTIAL SPOILERS*

There is something attractive about a person who has passion, who is driven to go after their ideas and goals. I was happy to have so many reminders of that in the past few days.

This is similar to the number one thing I took away from the 20SB Summit last month: Action is everything. Sitting and thinking about things that would be nice to do doesn't amount to much in the end. It's what you're driven to get up and do that defines you.

So, my lovely readers, what is it that you are passionate about? What big dreams are you pursuing right now?

Because that makes you gorgeous.

---

P.S. If you subscribed via RSS before the URL change, I suggest you re-subscribe so you get new posts right away instead of half a day later. Click here to subscribe using Google Reader.

Serving Your Spouse with Your Appearance

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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Serving Your Spouse with Your Appearance | Faith Permeating Life

Today I want to have an interesting (and potentially controversial) discussion.

Here are my questions:
  • To what extent should you have a say in your partner's appearance?
  • To what extent should you change your own appearance to please your partner?
You might be surprised to hear me asking these questions since I pride myself on being such an independent person, but don't forget that I also think service is vitally important in marriage. And you have to find a balance between preserving your independence and joining your life with your partner.

Emmy at Love Woke Me Up This Morning posted a similar question a few weeks ago:
"Is there really anything wrong with wanting to look nice for your hubby, with clothes he likes or a hairstyle he enjoys? ... On the other hand when do you draw the line? Is there a line between sacrificing who you are for a man and simply wanting to make him happy?"
Since the topic of what you do with your own body is a potentially volatile one, let's step back a minute and look at a different example.

A friend of mine in college once took me home to her parents' house on a weekend when she was filming interviews on relationships for a class. I got to sit in on her interview with her parents. During the course of the interview, her mom said that she tries to keep the kitchen clean because although she's naturally a messy person, she knows it's important to her husband to have a clean kitchen, and that's a way she can show she cares about him.

Afterwards, my friend said to me that she'd always figured her mom tried to keep the kitchen clean because her dad might get annoyed and complain otherwise, and that her mom was just trying to prevent an argument. It hadn't occurred to her that her mom was doing it as an act of service and love because she knew it was important to her husband.

With that in mind, here was my response to Emmy's question:
"I think it is more about the motivation: Are you doing it as a way to serve your husband out of love, or because he is controlling and expects obedience from you? There's a huge difference. As long as you feel like you have control over your decisions, then I don't see a reason why you shouldn't dress one way or another."
So if you say, "I'm wearing my hair long because my husband likes it that way," should I assume that your husband is controlling and dictates every area of your life? No. It may very well be that you don't care how long your hair is, so you decide to do what your husband will like.

Usually we think of women changing their appearance to please men, but what about the other way around?

Here's something you may not know: When I first met Mike, he had a 'fro. A big old curly white-boy 'fro. He'd gone to a Catholic all-boys high school for four years where he had to keep his hair short, so when he graduated he decided to see how long it would grow. (The answer: Long enough that at the end of our freshman year of college we both donated to Locks of Love.)

This was, honestly, something that made me resist dating him for a long time. I have always disliked long hair on guys, and I thought it made him look ridiculous and unattractive, despite the fact that I liked most everything else about him.

Eventually I got over it and got used to his hair, but once he cut it off I made it pretty clear that I found him much more attractive with short hair. And he was fine with that because he wasn't particularly attached to the 'fro. (Though he does like to threaten to grow it out again when he turns 40, I think just to needle me.)

Then it was the facial hair. I generally dislike facial hair, and Mike has never had any sort of permanent facial hair as part of his look, so it was really just an issue of when he wouldn't shave for a few days and looked kind of scruffy.

I resisted saying anything about it for a long, long time. I didn't want to be a "controlling" girlfriend. I didn't want to tell him what to do or how he needed to look. I was very protective of my own body and felt it would be hypocritical to say anything about his appearance.

Finally I couldn't deal with it anymore. I told him, "Look, I'm tired of feeling guilty about this. It's just a straight-up fact that I find you unattractive when you haven't shaved for a few days. You totally have the right to do whatever you want and look however you want, but just know that I am not attracted to you when you look scruffy."

He thought about it and said it wasn't a big deal to him, and he'd try to shave before he took a shower every day. We've been together 7 years now, and sure, it's not every single day, but it means a lot to me that he tries to honor that.

By the same token, I could be perfectly happy never shaving my legs again, but I do it because I know he likes it, and it's not a huge burden on me.

I want to know your thoughts on this. How much do your partner's wishes dictate your appearance? How much have you shared your opinions with your partner on their appearance decisions? And how do you make that distinction between "control" and "service"?

Exciting blog updates!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

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Hello friends,

I've spent the past day or so spiffing things up around here. And by here, I mean Faith Permeating Life (although our apartment isn't looking too terrible, haha). Here are some of the new, exciting changes:
  • I finally stopped dawdling and bought the faithpermeatinglife.com URL. No worries; any old bookmarks will still work fine, and the RSS feed should keep on working as well. So now when you tell your friends about this site (and I know you do...) you don't have to remember my weird username to get the URL right.
  • By popular request, I finally figured out how to add a Facebook "Like" button to the posts. (My first attempt a few months ago was disastrous and I'd given up in frustration!) You'll see it up there next to the Twitter button. Sadly, all my tweet counts reset to zero when the URL changed, so you'll just have to help get them back up again :)
  • There is now a Facebook page for Faith Permeating Life! Since at least one person said they would "Like" it if I made one, I decided, what the heck. At first there will probably be a lot of overlap with what's on my Twitter feed (new posts and links to interesting articles), but I'm hoping to use it to ask and receive questions as well. So join the conversation!
  • I've been writing down my book recommendations for what will be a once-a-month linkup here. Since I've consistently been coming up with three books for every category, I decided it ought to be called "Three Books on Thursday" (because you gotta have that alliteration!) and be my first Thursday post every month. If anyone feels so inclined to make a logo for said linkup, I would be eternally grateful and send plenty of credit and links your way :)
  • Finally, I've got a bunch of post topics stockpiled away, but I got to wondering what kind of things YOU like reading about most. You can see at the top of the page that my posts are divided into seven different categories. I'd love if you could take 30 seconds and answer the 2 questions below!


If you can't see the form, click here to answer the two questions.

Thank you! You all rock! Hope you're having a fabulous weekend.

Why I Dread Going to a Job I Love

Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Why I Dread Going to a Job I Love | Faith Permeating Life

Well.

It was 43 degrees when I left for work this morning. (That's 6 degrees Celsius for my non-US readers.)

It's September 15, and the cold season is starting. The season that lasts until, oh... April. Sometimes May.

Thus begins my annual hatred of going to work.

If you've been around since last winter, you know that the floor I work on is ridiculously cold in winter -- well, pretty much all year, because they blast the A/C in summer, but that's not as bad. Not the whole building, just our floor. (Something about "old buildings are hard to heat evenly.") To the point that I feel anxious all day long because my muscles never unclench.

What I have tried thus far:
  • Buying convertible mittens/fingerless gloves.
  • Wearing my coat all day.
  • Buying thermal underlayers, like the kind mountain climbers wear.
  • Drinking hot tea constantly. (Too much makes me sick, though.)
  • Filing multiple Building Services requests. (This has been tried for years by my co-workers, before I even started work there. Sometimes things are better for a day.)
  • Looking up the OSHA regulations. (They don't make any rules about office temperature, calling it a "matter of personal preference.")
  • Asking to work from home one day a week. (Not directly in conjunction with this, but in any case I only succeeded in securing one day a month because "otherwise everyone will want to do it.")
  • Buying an electric blanket. (Notice how much money I've spent on this??)

The last has been the most effective, but I still use it only as a last resort because of the comments I get. I honestly don't care if people think it's stupid and want to judge me as long as they don't say anything to me, but I hate having my work interrupted constantly so people can make jokes about my blanket. Also I'm technically not supposed to have it because of the electricity drain and the fire hazard. But I'm desperate here, people. Unfortunately it only keeps my legs warm, as I still need my hands for typing, so I have to make do with the gloves.

Here's the thing: I love my job. I love the work I do. I love the people I work with. I love the college I work for. Hell, I love my salary and benefits. I love almost everything about my job. And yet for six months out of the year, I dread coming to work.

It would seem silly to do it now, in September, but when we're farther into winter I think I'm going to have to lay it all out for my boss and see what he thinks we can do, because I'm out of ideas.

I hate that plan, though, because I know that everyone else is in the same position and has been toughing it out for longer than I have. But I'm also more sensitive to cold than most. The only other person on our floor who's as sensitive is our associate VP, but she can shut the door to her office and turn on her space heater if she needs to. She actually offered to lend me her space heater last winter when my fingers were turning purple.

Sure, I could probably get my doctor to say that I'm especially sensitive to cold, but again, I hate the idea that I would have to draw attention to myself as being special and needing special accommodations -- whatever those would even be. I have no idea.

I could ask to move onto a different floor in our building, but that would mean leaving the floor that the rest of our department is on. It would also be rather silly as my boss is just about to move back onto our floor after being on a different floor for the past year, and our division consists of just the two of us.

Eventually we will move to Seattle and escape the Chicago cold, but that's not in our plans for a few more years. And, as I said, I love my job and I'm not in a rush to give it up.

So.

This is not meant to be a whiny, poor-me post. I am literally stumped. Is there a way I can keep my job that I love without being freezing every single day?

Anyone have a suggestion?

Belief, Centered on Love

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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Belief, Centered on Love | Faith Permeating Life

A fellow blogger recently pointed me to a video about faith that uses the mathematical concepts of bounded sets and centered sets to explain, basically, the most effective mindset for evangelizing.

The video is here if you want to watch it, but in a nutshell, the message is this: Remember that the point is not to make someone more like you (whether you're Catholic, Baptist, whatever), but to help them move closer to the center -- Jesus -- wherever they're starting from. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.

The whole notion of bounded vs. centered sets cast a new light for me on these reflections about the type of Christian I am.

A bounded set is defined by what it includes and what it does not include. A centered set, on the other hand, is defined by a center point and how close or far the other points are to it.

I see a lot of Christians (and people of all faiths) approach their religion as a bounded set. If you do this, you are a Christian. If you do this, you are not a Christian. There are clear boundaries on what constitutes being or not being Christian.

But if we look in the Gospels, we see Jesus reject this very model. He rejects those who try to label Him as not a proper Jew because of his words or actions. He rejects the old view that we have to say exactly the right words and spend our time with exactly the right people and eat exactly the right things at the right time or else fall outside God's grace.

Instead, he reminds us about the core commandments, the things that really matter above all else: Loving God, and loving each other.
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Matthew 22:34-40
What does faith look like when it is centered on love? Take a minute to read this familiar verse.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So what's the point?

With this model, you strip away all of the rules. You strip away the theological differences between the faiths. You strip away anything that divides, that judges, that hates.

You are left with only a single question to answer: Will this bring me closer to love, or farther away?

For Those Who Aren't Crying Today

Sunday, September 11, 2011

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For Those Who Aren't Crying Today | Faith Permeating Life

Because it is the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks here in America, I feel I should write something about that event.

It's possible you're going to think that I'm a terrible, uncaring person for what I'm about to say. I invite you to consider that these are simply my feelings and my attempt to wrestle with those feelings, not any sort of sweeping notions about what September 11 should or shouldn't mean to everyone. Everyone responds to something like this differently.

So: I have shed no tears over the 9/11 attacks in the past 10 years.

I am sure this would be different if I had personally known and loved someone who was killed that day. I would grieve over their death the same as if I lost them at any other time unexpectedly, unfairly.

But I reject the notion that I'm obligated to mourn the lives lost on 9/11 more than other lives lost at other times simply because there were so many of them at once.

Perhaps I should cry over every death that happens anywhere, but we're wired not to do that or we'd go crazy. We cry over the deaths that affect us most deeply.

Still, I don't think the death toll is the only reason we commemorate 9/11 and have stitched its importance so deeply into the fabric of our country's history. Our priest last night talked about that day as being one that shook us up because we thought we were safe. We thought we lived in the safest place in the world and that no one could penetrate our security to cause death and destruction like that.

I guess I must never have had that kind of illusion. Even at 15, I had an awareness in the back of my mind that at any moment, a bomb could go off in the building I was in, a tornado could rip through my school, a sudden heart attack or aneurysm could steal my life in an instant. Likely? Maybe not. But certainly possible. I didn't consider myself any safer from death then than I do now.

If anything, I'm more at peace now than I was then with the idea of dying, as I've gained perspective and wisdom with age. I really have very little fear of death, something that was confirmed for me last week when playing a game of hypothetical questions at a friend's house. I was always willing to choose death over a drastic reduction in my quality of life.

Here is this week's New Testament reading for the Roman Catholic Church, and I think it explains well why I don't have a great fear of death:
Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:7-9

God is God whether I am alive or dead. When my time comes, it will certainly be very sad for those who are left, but I will be no worse off -- and rather better -- for leaving the world behind and being with God.

Basically, I can't say that 9/11 made me more afraid of death. Perhaps my country's military defenses make death by certain types of attacks less likely, but I never considered that they were impenetrable.

There are things I fear far more than death. When I read about other countries, historical and present-day, where people live in fear that they will be arrested for no reason and tortured, I am grateful that I don't have that fear on a daily basis. I am grateful that I have so many freedoms that I don't have to worry about accidentally doing or saying or wearing or eating the wrong thing and being imprisoned for it. I don't have to worry about these rules changing arbitrarily and at the whims of the government.

And yet...

These things that I do fear -- mistaken imprisonment, torture, lack of freedoms, governmental exercise of power outside the legislative system -- became more prevalent in our country following 9/11. And it wasn't a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, but rather our government's response to those attacks.

I understand wanting to maintain a certain level of security in the country, and it's worth preventing deaths when those precautions can be taken, to a certain extent. But if you accept that everyone will die eventually, and that none of us know the exact day and hour we will die, then it's clear that there has to be a limit on the sacrifices we make to prevent death.

This isn't meant to be political, really. It's simply my own thought process through the notions of fear and death, of freedom and security, of what really shakes me up and makes me afraid. Not everyone feels the same way I do about death, and that's fine.

If I were able to cry for the people killed on September 11, 2001, I would also cry for the many, many civilians who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan -- more people I don't know, who have died needlessly. I would cry for the people both outside and inside the U.S. who are wrongfully imprisoned and tortured so that their government officials can feel slightly safer.

Don't forget this: We also saw on 9/11 how people can do amazing, selfless things for others. How people can set aside differences and transcend their self-imposed boundaries to come together, work together, and mourn together. Heroic acts on that day and every other day deserve recognition. Maybe the legacy of 9/11 can be one not of fear and death, but of the memory and understanding of what service looks, what tolerance looks like, of what we as humans are capable of when we have reason to step up and be bigger than ourselves.

This is what I am thinking and feeling today, September 11, 2011. I am closing comments because, unlike every other post on here, this isn't something I'm putting out there for discussion. I'm putting it out there because I feel obligated to say something, and I can't lie to you. I don't want to. I just want you to know that if you aren't crying today, it's OK. You're not alone.

Update: I've decided to open comments after getting some positive feedback on the post, and reading Rabbit's great response. Please be respectful.

7 Quick Takes Friday: Gay Muppets, Blog Questions, and Love Bombs

Friday, September 9, 2011

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7 Quick Takes Friday: Gay Muppets, Blog Questions, and Love Bombs | Faith Permeating Life

I have a lot of odds and ends to get out, so it seemed like a good time for another Quick Takes post!

— 1 —

I went to my first choir rehearsal at church last night. I'm excited to be singing again. The good news is there was one other woman there who looked to be close to my age, and we chatted a bit. The bad news is that one of the returning choir members informed our new music minister, when he mentioned organizing some social events for the choir, that the way they've always done it is to have everyone contribute some money every time they come to choir rehearsal, and then go to a show at the end of the year. Needless to say, this was not what I wanted to hear. However, the music minister didn't seem sold on the idea.

— 2 —

If you don't follow me on Twitter (what are you waiting for??), you may have missed the story a while back about the petition to have Bert and Ernie get married on Sesame Street. I agreed with this writer's explanation for not signing the petition; namely, there's no good reason to "out" the Muppets and force them to turn their relationship into something completely different than it's been for decades. However, the official response to this was that this wouldn't happen because Muppets don't have a sexual orientation, and this writer quickly pointed out that plenty of Muppets have been shown to be straight. I thought this was a great example of what glaring heteronormativity looks like: the notion that you "have a sexual orientation" only if you're gay.

— 3 —

Another thing that went out on Twitter recently was this question (or multiple questions, I guess): Should I make a Facebook page for Faith Permeating Life? If I did, would you "like" it? What sort of content would you expect to see on there?

I'm seeing more and more blogs get Facebook pages, but given that my most frequent commenters are either anonymous, semi-anonymous, or anti-Facebook, I'm thinking it might not be worth it. However, it would make it easier to share my posts with your Facebook friends, and it would probably contain content similar to my Twitter feed (links to articles about religion, marriage, gay rights, etc. and to other people's awesome blog posts) for those who live more on Facebook than Twitter.

What do you think?

— 4 —

Speaking of blog-related ideas, I've been thinking of adding a weekly post of "Five Books on Friday." It could be a linkup, too, I guess. I have lots of ideas for book recommendations, such as "books everyone should read," "books every Christian should read," "books every couple should read," and "books for making a change in your life." I don't know if I could come up with five for every category, but I'd be willing to try. It might only last a few months, as I've read only a finite number of books :) Maybe I could do it once a month instead?

What do you think? Does that sound interesting or would you skip those posts? Would you link up with it yourself?

— 5 —

Do you have 5 minutes a week to spare? Or $1 a month? If yes, you can help out with two initiatives that are literally saving lives. I was privileged to hear Nate St. Pierre speak at the 20SB Summit, where I learned about Love Bomb and Love Drop. Love Bomb gives you a mission once a week to comment on the blog of somebody who's going through a tough time and needs some messages of love and hope. Love Drop picks one family a month that needs some specific things to help them through a difficult situation. Nate has seized on the idea that many people each contributing very little can do amazing things together. I highly recommend checking out these sites!

— 6 —

Mike built himself an armoire yesterday out of two doors and various other wood he found on the curb in our neighborhood.

It works really well! He's going to add some drawers next. Even though he might drive me nuts by constantly bringing things home on trash night ("It was free!"), I'm happy to have married someone who also values functionality over stylishness.

— 7 —

I start a new programming class on Monday. This one is about programming and data, so I'm hoping I'll actually be able to start applying what I learn to my job. So far I haven't been able to show my boss that letting me leave early once a week (to go to class) has any benefit to our department. Fortunately he's cool about it!

Please take a minute to answer my blog-related questions in comments. And let me know how your week was!

Why I Don't Dream of Traveling the World

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Why I Don't Dream of Traveling the World | Faith Permeating Life

Today's post inspiration comes from Hannah's post on traveling.

It seems like...
  • whenever I hear about someone's big life goals, they inevitably include world travel.
  • whenever somebody quits their job to "follow their dreams," they decide to travel the world.
  • whenever people discuss what they would do with unlimited time and money, it involves traveling the world.
You guys know that I'm pretty much a homebody and an introvert, which is why "say yes to social events" is a happiness commandment I had to force upon myself. So it's probably no surprise to hear that I don't have a deep desire to "see the world."

Maybe it would be different if I hadn't already had the privilege of making multiple trips outside the United States. I've traveled to Germany, Austria, and France on school trips, and to Japan, England, and Ireland with my family. And I've concluded that, yeah, I like being at home.

Certainly, Mike and I have visited many other states together (let's see if I can count them... 15), but with the exception of our honeymoon, they've been to visit family and friends. (And the best part of our honeymoon cruise, for me, was not seeing Alaska as much as it was the hours we spent drinking tea and doing crossword puzzles together. For real. I'm a nerd.) When I think about traveling somewhere, it's always to see people, not to "see the sights." If all of our friends and family lived around us, I'd be super happy.

(Actually, one correction: Mike and I went on a service trip together in college to inner-city Trenton, New Jersey. That wasn't for the purpose of "seeing the sights," either, I can assure you.)

Many of my trips outside the U.S. involved tours of various sorts, and most definitely, I love learning new things. However, I've decided that I love learning things from home equally as much as learning things while standing in the place about which I'm learning. And going to museums is cool, but I would almost always take an interactive museum like Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry over an art or history museum, regardless of where it is or how famous it might be.

One experience I had while my school trip in Paris really hit this home for me. We had just gone through a small museum that primarily contained paintings and other art. We were standing around, waiting to be herded off to whatever was next on our itinerary, when I saw a man and woman come out of the museum. The woman was clearly blind -- she had a stick and dark glasses and was being carefully guided by the man. And I wondered: What is the purpose of coming to an art museum if you are blind? Is it just for the experience of having physically been there?

I think, for some people, that is important; not so much for me. A few months later I was working Summer Staff for Group Workcamps and my crew took one of our free days to go to the Four Corners, which is the only place in the U.S. that you can be in four states at once: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Normally they charge admission, but we came right before they closed and they let us in for free. The whole thing seemed so weird to me. Paying so that you can lay down in a man-made circle that indicates intersection of some man-made borders? Just to say that you've been there?

Maybe my confusion just stems from my lack of desire to do things to impress other people.

Anyway, obviously that's not the only reason people travel. That's just the reason I don't understand.

If there's one thing I have enjoyed about traveling, it's the food. Some of the best things I've ever eaten were sushi in Tokyo, escargot in Paris, and some sort of noodle and dumpling dish somewhere in Austria. Mmmmmmm delicious. But I can't really justify flying 19 hours and paying who-knows-how-much money to eat sushi that is slightly more delicious than the sushi I can get here.

I also really liked seeing how things are done in other countries, particularly in Japan, where everything they do, from the streets to the subways, seems so much more logical than the the way things are done in America. But I probably could have learned all of that from reading about other people's experiences, if I'd had the motivation to do so. And, as with learning about healthcare in Europe, all it really accomplishes is making me annoyed that things aren't like that here.

I would say that, in general, I've enjoyed my travels to other countries, but they haven't left me wanting more. If I never left the U.S. again for the rest of my life, I'd be perfectly OK with that.

Come to think of it, that's probably why I'm not really drawn to international adoption...

How about you? Have you traveled outside your home country? Do you want to?

How I've Beat Procrastination (...Mostly)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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How I've Beat Procrastination (...Mostly) | Faith Permeating Life

I've recently figured out a way to get myself to do tasks I'd rather put off.

Following my happiness commandment "One step at a time," I've found that the oft-given advice for large, overwhelming projects works for small, unappealing tasks as well: Break it into steps.

This also ties in strongly with the notion of "identify the problem." For example, the other day I knew I needed to clean out our rats' cage, which, as you can imagine, is not the most thrilling or enjoyable task. However, when I thought about why I was avoiding it, I realized that actually sitting there, cleaning out the cage, didn't bother me very much. What I hated was that the whole process was so involved: Gather up the cleaning supplies (dustpan, cloth, cage cleaner spray, clean bedding, bucket for dirty bedding); set up the rats' play area; put all their toys in the play area; move the rats into the play area; then sit down and start cleaning out the cage.

So I hit upon this solution: Make each step a completely separate task. I told myself, "All you have to do right now is gather up the cleaning supplies. You don't necessarily have to clean the cage right now." That didn't seem like too daunting of a task, so I did it before I made my breakfast. Then I decided to set up the play area for the rats and put them in it so they could play while I ate breakfast. When I was done with breakfast, the cleaning supplies were all sitting there, the rats were happily playing, and all I had to do was sit down and clean. No big deal.

This has worked at my job, too. I kept putting off a particular project, and I realized that it was because the whole thing seemed amorphous -- I didn't know where to start or how long it would take. So I decided to make a completely separate to-do item that was simply listing the steps I was going to have to take. Because it didn't feel like I was doing any actual work, just making a list (which I generally enjoy), I got it done that day. Then the next day I tackled the project itself, which was a piece of cake because I had step-by-step directions and didn't have to do too much thinking to complete it.

Since realizing this, I've started using this technique even for very small tasks. "Ugh, I don't want to get this package ready." "OK, then just go get a box, a marker, and packing tape now, and you can do it later." (Yes, I talk to myself, as we've established previously.) Then a few minutes later I walk by and the supplies are all sitting there, ready to go, so it seems like no big deal to stop and package it up.

Have you ever tried this technique? What other strategies have you used to keep yourself from putting things off?

What Kind of Christian Am I? Life Lessons from a Stranger's Funeral

Sunday, September 4, 2011

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What Kind of Christian Am I? Life Lessons from a Stranger's Funeral | Faith Permeating Life

Yesterday I went to the funeral of someone I'd never met.

He was the husband of someone who works at my college, whom I don't know that well either, but I went to support her and because several other people from my office were going as well.

I know that everyone is always spoken highly of at their funeral, but you could tell from the stories shared that this man was truly an outstanding individual. His sister said that if you wanted to know what he was like, just pick up a Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13. As a teenager, he came home without a shirt on one day and said he'd literally given a man the shirt off his back because "he had no shirt," as if it were the simplest thing to do. He even brought home a little boy, who was begging on the street because his family had abandoned him, and convinced his family to adopt him. (Yet he was humble about this -- I found out later that his wife didn't know until he was on his deathbed that this young man was not her husband's biological brother.)

His family members said he didn't make quick judgments about anything. He listened to other people's opinions. He thought about them. He tried to keep an open mind and heart always. If you asked him his opinion about anything, he was likely to say, "It depends."

Again and again his family members said that it came down to love. He loved everyone and everything. He didn't hate anything, not even the cancer that killed him -- he saw no reason to hate.

Sometimes it's hard to know what being Christian, what being Christ-like means until you see it actually lived out in another person.

If we accept that it's impossible to literally follow everything in the Bible, we are faced with a choice of where to place our focus. There are hundreds and hundreds of definitions of what it means to be a Christian, or more accurately, hundreds of opinions on "what you would do if you were really Christian." And I don't think it's possible -- or even necessary -- to definitively say whose beliefs are right and wrong.

What this funeral reminded me was why I choose to call myself a liberal Catholic and to place my focus on social justice, human rights, tolerance, and unconditional love over following anyone's strict guidelines on morality.

Because I can't imagine someone getting up at my funeral and saying, "She was such a good Christian; look at how she shut down that abortion clinic."

I can't imagine being remembered as, "She was such a good Christian; she made sure only baptized Catholics ever took communion."

I don't ever want someone to say, "She was such a good Christian; she stopped couples from getting married if the Catholic Church said they shouldn't."

I'm not sure anyone will ever say that I gave the shirt off my back, but that is the kind of Christian example that I'm working toward. One that is about love and acceptance, not about making others conform to a moral code.

In this, my main role model has been my maternal grandmother, who passed away six years ago. She was a living model of Christ if I ever saw one, someone whose home was open to anyone, anytime, and who cared deeply and fiercely about other people. She worked in Child Protective Services, which is not an easy thing to do, but that's where her heart was: serving others. She lived the Gospel at its core -- love, love, love.

Would anyone say she was not a true Christian because she didn't make it to church every single week?

Sure they would. But that's not the definition I want to live by.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:34-35

The Happiness Project: September is Parenthood Month

Thursday, September 1, 2011

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The Happiness Project: September is Parenthood Month | Faith Permeating Life

Before you ask: I am NOT pregnant.

Mike and I are still a few years away from adopting kids, but I felt like I should devote a month to getting a handle on who I want to be as a parent. I will probably have a few posts this month delving into broad, theoretical ideas about parenthood, but primarily I want Mike and me to discuss and hopefully agree on some of the basic rules that will govern our household. I think knowing that we're on the same page about things will give me a greater sense of peace about the idea of becoming a mother -- which currently still freaks me out.

But first, I need to do a brief recap to keep myself accountable.

January-July: Narrowing down my list of resolutions in July has made it easier to maintain the habits I've been building throughout the year. I'm making one small change for September, which is that rather than merely having an e-mail draft always started and waiting, I'm going to try to send a brief e-mail to a friend or family member every day. We'll see how that goes.

August: This month turned out OK. I only managed to get through one work-related book (though it was very helpful), so I'm keeping this resolution through the end of the year. I've given myself permission, when things are slow, to take my book away from my desk and just go read for half an hour. Because honestly, nobody notices where I am, so I might as well take advantage of it.

One change I made, that drove my ability to "work smarter," was to keep a time-tracking sheet. I'll probably talk more about this in a later post. It was very easy to do and gave me a lot of insight into how I work, how long things really take, and just how often I get interrupted at my desk (which is hard data to take back to my boss about my desire to work from home more often). I also paid greater attention to which projects I enjoyed and which I dreaded. I now give myself permission when I feel restless to work on something I find fun even if it isn't a high priority, just to keep my momentum going. Watching myself work was a great exercise.

So, on to September!

I really have only one resolution for this month, which fortunately Mike is onboard with. Every other day, I will send Mike a topic or, more likely, my stance on something (e.g., "I don't think we should spank our children"). I'll include pros and cons where applicable, and probably a few links to arguments that have shaped my thoughts on the matter. Then he'll have a day to think about it, and we'll discuss the following night.

Because I read so many blogs and articles about stuff like this, I already have a lot of thoughts and opinions and ideas, and I want to make sure Mike is aware of those and has a chance to form his own opinions well ahead of time.

We did this before we got married, too -- talked about everything from finances to chores to sex -- and it greatly paid off, I think, so I'm hoping the same is true for raising children. Because we may end up adopting children with unique needs that we'll have to adapt to, I think it's best that we are on the same page for as many things as possible to start with.

For those of you with children, how much (in terms of household rules, approaches to discipline, how you would celebrate holidays, etc.) did you discuss ahead of time and how much has been decided as situations arise? How much do you think it's possible to plan ahead of time?

For those of you in marriages/partnerships without children, how much discussion have you had about these topics?


EDIT: I realized that I should better clarify the kind of discussions I'm talking about. Here are some of the conversations Mike and I have talked about or will hopefully talk about this month:
-Will our son(s) be circumcised?
-Will our children sleep in cribs or co-sleep with us?
-Will our children experience the stories of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny?
-Will we set a price limit or number-of-gifts limit for birthdays and holidays?
-Will our children be expected to do chores? At what age?
-Will our children get an allowance? How much? Will it be linked to their chores?
-Will our children be able to join any extracurricular activity they want, or will we put limits, such as how much money we'll contribute to any activity or how many times a week we're willing to drive to activities?
-Will our children get their own rooms or share rooms?
-Will our children be allowed to have a TV in their bedroom? A computer?
-Will we put limits on how much TV or computer time our kids can have?
Those are some examples of the kind of conversations we've had and that I want to have before we adopt kids.
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