Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Not?

Happy New Year's Eve!  I've never been hugely disciplined when it comes to resolutions (my phlegmatic temperament tends to make me way too, well, lazy for them), but I do love the idea of a fresh start.  I usually try to go to confession close to New Year's, to get a nice good soul cleaning, and try to recommit myself to my spiritual life and to wellness after a season of holiday indulgence.  This year, I'm setting out to pray the Rosary daily, which currently happens just a few times a week and sometimes gets cut short by my falling asleep, to write more letters, and, at least for the month of January, to go grain-free.  What about you?

In the spirit of midwinter renewal, I'd humbly like to start offering you creative, fulfilling additions to your wedding day.  Diana Vreeland was an insanely eclectic, opinionated old bird who made a name for herself in the fashion world, through magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and handpicked exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She made it a trademark to write articles starting with "Why don't you..." that end in things like "turn your fur coat into a bathrobe?" and "give a diamond bracelet as a gift to the wife of your favorite bandleader?"  Obviously, none of us here can actually roll that way, but it's a nice idea, no?  Inspired, I think I'll start posting a "Why don't you..." every few weeks!

Tell me: what's the funniest, most original, or most spiritual aspect of your wedding day that you can't wait for?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 8: All The Way Home I'll Be Warm

It's going to be a white Christmas for us!  One of the things I love most about my town is how walkable it is.  Most weeks, when we're not running late, that is, Andrew and I enjoy walking to Mass.  When it's raining or snowing, that means goodbye to my fancier shoes, but that's okay with me.  I saved up for my rainboots during my college summer job as a waitress, and four years later, they remain one of the best purchases I ever made.  You can wear them, I think, with anything at all, from pants to shorts to dresses, and they have super comfy arch supports that mean I can happily clomp all over the place without getting tired.  I feel like I'll never have to buy another pair!

My puffer vest is an early Christmas present from my husband--I love the monogram!

Oxford, Gap.  Puffer vest, Land's End.  Belt, Forever 21.  Metallic skirt, Target.  Wellies, Hunter.  Ribbon and pearl bracelets, DIY.  Lips, Fuschia Fever by Maybelline.

I pray that you find these last few days of Advent filled with grace and Christ's peace.  I'd love to hear about your holiday plans!  Meantime, be sure to visit Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!

P.S. If you like what you see, check out my new fashion feature, Like a Lily, and email me at if you'd like to participate!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Love Notes: Christmastime Is (Almost) Here- A Holiday Playlist

{small ways to celebrate great love}

My best friend Teresa celebrates Advent and Christmas, I think, in the truest spirit of waiting.  She refuses to listen to any music that's expressly Christmassy until December 24th and 25th, savors the moment of putting Baby Jesus in the Nativity set, and just celebrates everything so fully.

I wish I had her patience.  As soon as December hits, I can't help myself with the Christmas music!  The way I see it, though I'm trying to be better about seeking out silence, my sense of joy gets a chance to build all through Advent, with the help of music, and then is able to be expressed most fully at Christmas.  I do try to focus less on the "Jesus Is Born" type songs before Christmas Day, if I can help it.  Instead, I really enjoy songs that are more Marian, like "Ave Maria," more secular tunes (with the exception of the ever-creepy "Santa Baby"), and of course, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" for right now.  I'd love to hear about your Advent preferences and your reasons behind them!

Meantime, whether you're all about the Christmas music right now, or are waiting a few more days until Christ is born, enjoy this little collection of my favorite winter and Christmas songs!

Caitlin  inspired me with the perfect activity to listen to this playlist by--driving around, in your PJs, enjoying all of the Christmas lights in your area!

Did your favorite make the list?  Tell me the Christmas songs you look forward to all year!

I won't be writing posts next week, but check back for graphics and reflections, and feel free to Pin them!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Feature! Like a Lily: Deme

{what she wears}

Have you been enjoying Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday outfit linkup as much as I have over the past few months?  Inspired by all the amazingly original, modest, and feminine outfits I've gotten to admire every week, I'm so excited to introduce a new feature here today!

The woman in the Song of Songs is described "like a lily among thorns."   The entire poem just pulls on my heart.  When I was younger, I remember being so surprised by the Song of Songs' overt sensuality, as well as by the idea that lines like "Your hair is like a flock of goats!" were considered turn-ons.  Now, though, having been graced with a deeper, much more integrated view of sexuality, I see nothing but purity in these lovers' passion.  As human persons, we are more special than we could ever fathom: no other being on earth is made in God's image and likeness, as a body and soul.  And as women, we're the crown of creation.  Our bodies express who we are and express the love between man and wife in such a visible way, so what I've come to realize is that sensuality, in the literal context of having to do with the senses, is such a beautiful thing.  Sensuality, eroticism, and sex itself...these goods have been so twisted by the world, but when they're untwisted and placed squarely back where they belong, in light of nuptial love, they're nothing but good, pure, and holy.

So, in the spirit cultivating beauty, inspiring love, and expressing who we are as women through our bodies and our dress, I've asked some of my fellow bloggers to share a peek inside their style and their closets, and to pick out a bridal look as inspiration for you!   For this inaugural edition of Like A Lily, meet Deme from A Fresh Coat of Paint!  She blogs about making over her family's new home (check out these incredible Before and After shots!), life with her three adorable peanuts, and lately, fashion!  Today she's dreaming about an elegantly simple wedding day blooming with peonies (my favorite!) and a soft, neutral palette with pops of pastel. 

Here's what she has to say about it:

My own wedding was an evening affair on a cool evening in early spring.  My bridesmaids all wore black dresses (of their own choosing, so all were different) and it was an almost all black and white wedding with a few touches of green.  So this time around I felt myself drawn to a much warmer color palette, with warmer weather on the brain.  I love the simple elegance of the dress and the soft pink bouquet.  I love a neutral and natural setting so I ran with the pink/white/nude color story, with a little bit of mint thrown in the mix. 

Read on for Deme's take on what makes a woman most beautiful, a reverse approach to dressing and accessorizing, and the best shoe risk she ever took.
Deme's Style:

Describe your personal style in 5 words. 
Classic with a nod to eclectic (okay, that was 6 words).

What's the secret to punching up an outfit on the days when you're tired of everything in your closet?  I tell myself I'm not allowed to wear jeans (at least not my go-to blue jeans).  It forces me to think outside of my daily "uniform".  Jewelry and accessories are my other weapon for punching up an outfit that feels blah.  I set aside the usual suspects and go for earrings or a necklace I haven't worn in awhile.  Sometimes adding a statement piece of jewelry or a great scarf can completely change the look of an everyday outfit.  It's also a great place to start when you're stuck.  Instead of trying to come up with a great outfit and then accessorizing, grab your favorite accessory first and then go to your closet.  That piece might inspire you to put together something totally new.

Name a few of your wardrobe essentials. 
A good pair of skinny jeans (I go up a size or two so they aren't too tight), riding boots for fall and winter, and a wedge sandal for spring and summer, a great pair of trousers, a maxi dress or skirt (so versatile for every season!), and a white 3/4 sleeve blazer.  Cozy basics to mix and match.

Favorite Shoes: Ankle boots!  I wavered on taking the plunge on these for awhile.  I finally bit the bullet this winter and got a camel suede wedge ankle boot from Target.  Love. Them.  So comfy, and I feel like they take a ho-hum outfit up a notch every time!

Favorite Nail Color: Perfect Plum by Sally Hansen

Signature Fragrance: Pink by Victoria's Secret.  Fresh and not too overpowering of a floral punch.

Every girl has days when she struggles with her looks and her worth.  What do you do to remind yourself you're a beloved, beautiful daughter of the King?  One of the best compliments I've ever received (evident by the fact that I remember it so specifically and clearly) was from a friend who said, "You are the most beautiful when you are talking about the things of God".  It was a reminder that no matter how I look and how much time I spend on it, nothing is more striking than the Holy Spirit at work in us.  Whenever I feel tempted to focus on my physical attributes or the ones I wish I could change, I ask for the beauty of "a gentle and quiet" spirit.  Even if my heart is not in that place, by praying those words (sometimes again and again), it helps to lift my eyes off of my physical appearance and all my insecurities, and onto my Creator who sees me without flaw.

Items you can't live without: I'm a huge fan of Aveda hair products.  They're not the cheapest, but they have worked the best for my thick, unruly hair.  And a little goes a long way, so I'm not replacing them as much as other products.

How can a bride reflect her everyday style in her wedding day style?  This can be easy to lose when you're faced with all the options out there!  When it comes to the dress, go with your gut and what flatters your body type.  When trying on dresses for my wedding I spotted a really beautiful dress with subtle lace details, a simple silhouette, was a Mother of the Bride dress.  I tried it on anyway and It just felt like me. I couldn't get it out of my head. Friends and family encouraged me towards another dress - one I really liked, but didn't love.  I went with the wedding gown they suggested, but always thought about the first dress. So go with what you love and with what makes you feel great.   When it comes to your hair, don't deviate too much from the way you normally wear it.  If you have great natural curls, find a style appropriate for the day that shows those off.  If you hate your hair in your face, don't wear it down. Overall, if you have a quirky style, throw in a few unexpected twists, like a pop of color or bold pattern in your shoes.  If you're a lover of classic style, then go with timeless options and classic color schemes, leaving the trendy for another day.

Fashion, evangelization, and the Feminine Genius: your thoughts?  As much as it's easy (and fun!) to get caught up in all the wedding planning details, don't lose sight of the Sacrament of your union.  You are about to enter into a relationship that will literally be a picture to others of how Christ loves His church. Everyday we get dressed we have the opportunity to give the world a walking, talking picture of God's beauty.  It's our unique gift as women, and the way we present ourselves each day can speak to how valuable and loved we are by our Heavenly King.  Or it can speak a much different message - that our bodies are for others' pleasure, and should be the focus of attention.  Or that our bodies are something to be ashamed of and hidden.  The truth lies in the middle: our bodies are an incredible gift, intended to be given fully to our spouse only as a full expression of marital love.  The body should therefore be dressed and treated with dignity and respect.  To dress modestly does not mean you have to sacrifice style.  To celebrate our femininity in a stylish way that also honors our bodies is a powerful way to evangelize.  Your wedding day is no different, and perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to show that within the Sacrament of marriage, love and beauty flourish like no other.

"A walking, talking picture of God's beauty..."  I just adore her, don't you?  Such wisdom. 

Want to share your style picks with Captive the Heart?  Email me at!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Reflections, Part 2: Sacred Silence

 Can I be real with you today? It's incredibly exciting to go dress shopping, show everyone your ring, and enjoy parties thrown just for you, but when the fun stuff isn't going on and it's just you and your fiancĂ©, engagement can also be a time of penny-pinching, trials with chastity, an overwhelming sense of needing to accomplish thousands of things, and for some couples, dating long distance.

A few weeks ago, I received a question asking how to deal with the stresses of engagement, and I've been thinking this Advent season is a perfect time to give it some thought.

The world is a noisy place, isn't it?  Between social media, texting, and just going about our everyday routines, I feel like there are so many pulls on our attention.  All of it can distract me while I'm having a conversation, working, or exercising, and lately, I've become more aware of the fact that I fill most silences with sound.  It's such an easy habit for me.

I constantly catch myself missing opportunities to retreat from the noise.  Something as simple as a walk during lunch, for instance, usually turns into a quick phone call to say hi to my husband or one of my friends, just because I have a few minutes.  Most days when I drive to work, I play my iPod for the duration of my 45-minute commute, but when I'm in the car with Andrew, he prefers to leave the radio off so we can talk or pray the Rosary.  Sometimes it makes me impatient, but I'm seeing more and more how right he is--ditching the noise almost always leads to some of our best conversations, and it's teaching me to be more present.

The thing is, this month, this holy season, is all about quiet; about silence.  It's in silence that the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary in her room in Nazareth, in silence that Jesus grows in her womb, and in silence that our salvation is so humbly born, alone with his parents in a dirty old barn.  Seeking out the quiet, I think, can be such a key to easing the stress of wedding planning and long-distance engagement.  So here, literally and otherwise, are a few ways to just tune out the noise together and enter in:

  • I love the sense of peace I get every time I leave Adoration.  Do you ever get the feeling I do, that the first time you speak or see someone after being alone and quiet with the Lord is a big departure from how you were in prayer?  Whether my time before Him was spent joyfully, tearfully, or even indifferently, I always leave the chapel feeling like I'm re-entering the world after having spent time in the quiet.  Go with your fiancĂ© for a prayer date, and just soak in the Lord's and one another's presence.
  • Silence your bridal brain for a night: go out to dinner, or make it, and forbid yourself to talk about anything wedding-related.  After a rough day of going crazy with the registry scanner, the lady who helped us at Bed, Bath & Beyond advised us to do just that.  It was exactly what Andrew and I needed to regain a perspective on what wasn't important, wedding-wise, and to remember that we still had plenty of time to plan.
  • Spend an evening unplugged!  Turn off your computers, your phones, and your music and bask in everything else the world has to offer.  Stargazing with blankets and hot cocoa?  A walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights?  Dessert and board games by candlelight?  Yes, please.
  • Go for a run, a hike, a bike ride...exercise is such a good way to burn off your stress, and gives you the option of either talking or just reflecting, enjoying being present with each other.
  • Write to each other.  Putting pen to paper in your best handwriting is an exercise in concentration itself, and background music or lit-up screens don't make it any easier.  To me, there's hardly anything more special than a handwritten note, where your beloved's heart doesn't come with a backspace key.
What about you?  I'd love to hear your ideas for maintaining your peace, seeking silence, and beating your stress!

P.S.  Head over to Ignitum Today to read my newest column!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 7: Rejoice!

Gaudete!  Happy third Sunday of Advent!  A few months ago, my husband and I bought our first ugly Christmas sweaters, but now that the season's actually upon us, I'm enjoying putting together festive outfits in at least a slightly classier way.

Tartan and a little sparkle are my favorite ways to put myself in an anticipatory, holiday state of mind without looking like a Christmas tree--what are yours?

Oxford, American Eagle.  Cardigan, Gap.  Pants, Target.  Glitter pumps, Steve Madden.  Pearl necklace, DIY.

Visit Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!  Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 10

{story of a soul, condensed}

Pieces of life...visit Conversion Diary for Quick Takes from other bloggers!

{1} My Christmas prep efforts continue...this week, we baked sugar cookies, these amazing chocolate chip ones, and these flourless chocolate ones.  I'm slowly stumbling my way towards a balance between wanting to do dozens of Christmassy things at once, and not letting myself be overwhelmed by them, to the point where they feel more like chores than something fun.  I'd love to know your tried and true holiday baking recipes!  Share them below!

{2} On the subject of flourless cookies, I've been reading more and more about the benefits of eliminating grains from your diet, and have been contemplating trying it out just for a month, in January.  Heaven knows it'd be a pretty unrealistic endeavor during this season of sugary, floury treats, but lately, as I've been eating larger amounts of rice, oatmeal, and yes, cookies, than normal, I've noticed fairly dramatic effects on my mood, my energy, and my skin.  With that in mind, I think I'm ready for a little change!  I eat plenty of produce and protein already, and nothing from packages, so I figure that rather than completely overhauling or replacing my diet, I'm just adapting it a little by removing a part of it.  For you fellow crunchy ladies (All the crunchy ladies!  Sorry.) out there, do you ever get a little defensive of dietary choices like these?  For me, it comes in the form of making it clear to people that I don't eat the way I do in order to be skinnier, but just to feel well overall--if my body is functioning optimally, I've found that I have an easier time working to flourish spiritually and fulfill my day-to-day responsibilities.  Chime in!  Have any of you gone grain-free?

{3} Are you still crossing off friends and relatives from your Christmas list?  I've recently discovered Furbish, an adorable, mostly affordable source for home decor, jewelry, and stationary.  It's love.  Am I crazy for loving this weird, whimsical antler art?!

{4} We celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with such a wonderful date last weekend!  We went to Mass at a cathedral we love (oddly, another diocese's cathedral is closer to where we live than the one for our own diocese) and out for a delicious Thai lunch.  On the way, we got to walk through the most adorable, beautifully decorated neighborhood!  This feast means so much to me.  Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was the patroness of our college, where my devotion to her began, complete with bells that play "Immaculate Mary" at 4 minutes to the hour, and we pray the Miraculous Medal prayer (the one that begins, O Mary, conceived without sin...) during each decade of the rosary.  Two years ago on that day, I experienced an attack of such anxiety and despair, and when I recall it now, I'm flooded with thanks for all of the graces in my life and for Our Lady constantly holding me close to her mantle.

{5} Could you say some prayers for me this week?  For reasons I can't really figure out, I have felt...heavy lately.  Just the weight of feeling inadequate in my responsibilities around the house and as a helpful wife, and in my self-worth in general.  I've been blessed never to struggle much before with knowing my worth, and it's a somewhat scary new experience.  Even with a husband so loving, forgiving, and affirming who embodies the Father's love for me, it's been a hard few weeks.  I know, know, that these feelings aren't from the Lord, and have been praying He dispels all of them and teaches me more and more to trust in His love and His mercy.  Thank you so, so much!

{6} Have you been enjoying Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday fashion linkup each week as much as I have? Keep your eye out for a the debut of a new style feature on Captive the Heart so soon!

{7} And lastly, for your weekend, a perfectly gorgeous, aching, somehow wintry song.

Tell me what you're up to this weekend!  Anything exciting?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Spirit Rejoices: Great Light Of the World and A Charlie Brown Christmas

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

Photo Source
A few months ago, I shared with you a lovely, lovely, aching version of "It Is Well With My Soul" sung by Gianna Jessen, a survivor of abortion and all-around extraordinarily beautiful human being.  I described to you the absolute magic of the evening I heard her speak, how the room was so still and so filled with grace.  What I didn't tell you is that the same night, Bebo Norman, a Christian musician my sister and I love, was also there.  Gift.  Great Light Of the World is one of his older songs, which he re-recorded for a Christmas album a few years ago.  Ever since, I've decided to only listen to this song at Christmastime.  To me, it's such a profound reflection on the idea that in our humanness, we are only perfected, completed, and wholly fulfilled in the Lord.  I'm half a man here, he sings, so come make me whole.  This sentiment, that Jesus' birth floods our shame, sin,  and dark corners with radiant light, combined with the thought of a husband and wife giving one another a small earthly taste of divine perfection, makes this song so, so fitting for an Advent or Christmas season nuptial Mass, don't you think?  You can listen to the song here.

Seriously, who doesn't adore A Charlie Brown Christmas?  There's the blanket wrapped around the Christmas tree, the way all of the Peanuts' little mouths move in sync when they sing "Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing" and, of course, Linus' perfect speech on the real meaning of Christmas.  There's also its jazzy, incredibly familiar soundtrack--every time I hear one of the songs, like this one or this one, I picture the ice skating scene, the dancing-in-the-choir-room scene, or whatever else it is so clearly.  Chances are, I'm not the only one who loves this little movie so much and has such strong ties to the music.  That's why I think a few tunes from the Charlie Brown Christmas  soundtrack would provide such wonderful background music for your reception while everyone's having dinner or cocktails!  At my own wedding, I found that picking out dinner music was kind of a tricky business--we wanted songs that were fun and recognizable, but not in a way that would detract from the atmosphere.  We eventually went the Rat Pack and Ella Fitzgerald type route, which I imagine plenty of other couples do, but I think instrumental music, especially at Christmastime, would be such a great addition to the mix!

What's your take?  I'd love to hear your ideas for adding a little holiday music into your celebration!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rite Resources: 100 Layer Cake Marketplace

If you're anything like me, you spend a good amount of time admiring pretty wedding details on Pinterest and wedding blogs, but do you ever feel like they're mostly...out of your league?  Getting married is not cheap, for sure, and though I tied the knot before Pinterest came along (I wish), it was easy to feel inadequate sometimes, like my wedding items would never be as fancy, as coordinated, or as creative as the ones filling all of my magazine pages.

How to combat this comparison syndrome?  The best thing, I found, was to just remove all of the bridal mags and websites from my life for periods of time.  I'd tell myself, "Okay, not more wedding stuff for the rest of the day," or "for the rest of the week," and it really did help.  If I wasn't constantly looking at all those covet-able things, I usually coveted them less.  I tried, too, to pray for humility, and to be as spiritually prepared, not materially prepared, to enter into marriage as possible.  I'd love to hear how you've dealt with these feelings, too!

That said, if there's actually a more economical way to acquire decorations, accessories, and all the rest, and if you're trying to maintain a spirit of detachment, I see nothing wrong with going for it.  I was so excited to find the Marketplace at 100 Layer Cake, a site dedicated to "inspiration for life's parties."  Think of the Marketplace as a gorgeous, wedding-planning combo of Etsy and Craigslist!  Brides and vendors can buy and sell items from dresses to dinner plates, cards to cake toppers, and you can even post classified-style ads for items or vendors you're on the lookout for.  I think it's a great way to make your wedding a little greener by repurposing other brides' (new or barely used) items, and to foster community.  Look at all the prettiness out there!

What do you think of secondhand wedding goodies?  And, share your thoughts on finding things you love for less!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 6: Statements and Staples

It's been so warm out this week that I was able to get away with not wearing tights today!  Serious gift. I wore two of my favorite things in my closet.  The first is this blue statement necklace.  J. Crew was the first to offer this bubble style that I love, but after coming to peace with the fact that I'll probably never own one with a J. Crew price tag, I found this one on Etsy, instead.  I love the turquoise color, and it punches up a surprising number of my basics!

The second is the pair of leopard ballet flats I got from Nordstrom four years ago.  Looking back, I wish I'd bought two pairs at once, because these are getting worn out, and just a few years later, similar styles seem to cost so much than they did then!  Andrew tells me that when we first met back in one of our college English classes, he would notice my shoes and wonder to himself if "anyone besides old people in Florida wear leopard shoes."  Don't be offended if you're a leopard-lover; I still wear mine even if he laughs at them!  I used to only wear these shoes with simple neutrals and solids, but I've come to love them with plenty of brights, and even a bit of pattern, too--the leopard print, I've realized, is basically a neutral itself, so it pairs well with so many of my outfits.  Lately, I've seen a lot of loafer styles that I think might be a great replacement for my flats.  What's your take?

Oxford, Ralph Lauren.  Skirt, Old Navy.
Nails, Minted by Revlon.  Necklace, Etsy.  Shoes, B.P. by Nordstrom.
Visit Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!  Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, December 7, 2012

DIY (sort of): Advent and Christmas Decorations

I am a total cheese, but I don't care: it really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?  I love the anticipation of Advent and its joyful fulfillment at Christmas.  Last year was my first married Christmas, and despite my not having a job, Andrew's tiny grad student salary, and our cold, cold little apartment, I treasure the memory of it.  Now, though, it's been such a gift having enough money to enjoy decorating, baking, and hunting for everyone's perfect present.  I've loved dreaming up Advent and traditions for my sweet husband and I, for this Christmas and beyond--I keep needing to remind myself that I don't need to acquire an entire arsenal of ornaments, decorations, and gift wrapping supplies all at once!

Katie shares in my excitement, I think.  She blogs about married life, the media, NFP, and a culture of life at NFP and Me, and because she is awesome, she's been generous enough to host a Christmas decorations linkup!  Click here for decorating inspiration from other bloggers.  Here's my little collection so far.  For later, stockings (no, we don't have them yet!) and a nativity set are at the top of my wish list!

Do you ever dream up the perfect craft project, then struggle to get it out of your head and into being exactly how you pictured it?  I couldn't wait to make us our first Advent wreath, but I initially felt like I was coming up short on inspiration.  To my surprise, trusty ol' Pinterest seemed to be lacking in this particular department.  My search did, however, turn up many, many wreaths comprised of children's handprints and toilet paper tube candles.  So there's that.  Anyway, my friend Katherine and I went to A.C. Moore after work last week, and after deliberating over the million sparkly, pretty options, I picked out these metallic berries and tartan ribbon.  It was really simple, more so than I expected, to wire the garland and weave the ribbon onto the wreath, and having a lack of candleholders, we just improvised by putting our tapers into votive jars with a few marbles to keep them standing.  I love to consider that this will be our family Advent wreath for a long time!

Did you catch one of my first DIYs back in the beginning for these salt dough bouquet tags?  I decided to do a similar project for stamped ornaments, using Christmas cookie cutters.  Since I don't have many sentimental ornaments yet, and wanted to do something beyond just the basic bulbs, I'm so happy with these!  One has our names and imprints of our wedding rings, and the others say Fiat, A thrill of hope, In excelsis deo, O come let us adore Him, Rejoice!  Emmanuel, and Bind my wandering heart to thee.

This hurricane glass is usually home to a little crop of fake lemons (very pretty, if not very functional), but I wanted to display something a little more festive for the season.  I was so, so glad to find these sparkly bulbs at the dollar store, and I love how they look overflowing the jar!

Andrew's parents gave us this beautiful image of Our Lady of the Millenium, our favorite, as a Christmas gift last year.  We display it all the time, not just around the holidays, but I've been trying to meditate on it in a special way during Advent.  I love thinking of Jesus peacefully growing in Mary's womb amidst such tumultuous surroundings, and bringing peace to His mother, as well.  Oh, how I need to let myself be formed in her womb, too.

What about you?  I'd love to hear about your treasured Advent and Christmas items!  Also, I've been wanting to settle into Advent with some spiritual reading that has to do with Our Lady, a spirit of poverty, or just the birth of Jesus in general.  Recommendations, anyone?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Inspired: All That Glitters

{wedding candy}

A few months ago, I fell for and bought the most perfect pair of sparkly pumps.  Not too high or too low, special enough to dress up all of my basics, and topped with the best oversized bow.  I came home from shopping and excitedly waved them in my husband's face.  He smirked.  "Those look,"  he said, "like the kind of craft project little kids do."

How hopelessly unstylish of him, I thought.  And so it has continued: Andrew bemusedly smiles while I happily wear my shoes as often as possible.  Today, I suppose, we'll discover which one of us is in our right minds, because today's theme is all about glitter.

Before you go dismissing the idea as tacky, have a look at the devastatingly classy Kate Spade photos below.  Using those as inspiration, I've decided that sparkly touches and pops of color, in the forms of statement jewelry, bright accessories, and perfectly Christmassy decor, can add the best sense of festive cheer to a holiday wedding.  Let your light shine!  May I also suggest sparklers for toasts and for your big exit?

1. Tassel Garland, Confetti System.  2. & 3. Necklaces, Bauble Bar.  4. & 5. Bangles, Target.  6. Nicole by OPI Polish in Glitter In My Stocking (Paint your nails a neutral color, then add this sparkly gold on just your ring fingers!).  7. Favor Tags, Etsy.  8. Adrienne Pumps, Shoemint.  9. Glitter Initials, Etsy.  10. Faux Fur Scarf, Target.  11. Boxwood Wreath, Save On Crafts.

What's your take?  Would you include any of these glittery additions?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Reflections, Part 1: Chastity and Waiting

Happy Advent!  I love, love, love this season for its sense of anticipation, and of course, I love its culmination in our Savior's birth!  During my engagement, I can remember feeling so many similarities between preparing for Christmas and preparing for marriage--both are times of waiting, both can overwhelm you now and then, and both end in a gift of purest love.

There's a passage from Romans that I love.  "We know," says Saint Paul, "all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved..." (8:22-24).  At first glance, it might not seem like the sunniest verse (hello, he's talking about labor), but I can identify so deeply with the sense of longing that Paul expresses.

In the last few years, I've been incredibly blessed to develop a more in-depth understanding of the Theology of the Body.  Attending a TOB retreat taught by Christopher West himself was such a gift to me.  The retreat consisted of a 30-hour course entitled "Head and Heart Immersion," and I don't think it could be titled more aptly.  During the retreat, I learned so much about the Theology of the Body beyond my very basic understanding, which certainly satisfied the "head" aspect, but it's been letting all that knowledge sink into me that's borne such amazing fruit.

The best thing I took away from the course was a greater awareness of the longings we all feel and what they indicate.  Do you ever experience an ache so deep, for love or for belonging or for Heaven, that you can barely keep it together?  Those are our labor pains; our desire for adoption as God's children.  Everyone feels it, and when I consider the Ache in light of TOB, it makes so much sense.  Of course we long for perfect love, long for something more, because it's what we're meant for.  We're restless, just like Augustine says, because we won't rest completely until this life ends and our heavenly one begins.  Every fulfillment on earth is just a taste of how the Father satisfies.  It's something I love to think about, and I notice it everywhere, especially in music (Mumford and Son's "Awake My Soul?'  King's of Leon's "Use Somebody?"  My favorite, Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes?"  Even Taylor Swift's "Love Story?"  In the lyrics and vocals, you can hear them aching!).

I remember so clearly the particular aches of engagement.  Every vocation brings the greatest fulfillment on earth to those whom it calls, but to me it seems that marriage does so in the most tangible way.  Specifically, the love, forgiveness, and affirmation of your spouse has the power to bear the Father's love to us in such a real way--through another human being, body and soul.  I so badly wanted physical proximity to Andrew while we dated long-distance, wanted to know what my life in a new town, in a new role as a wife, would be like, and wanted every part of a shared life.  I'm sure I wasn't the only one.  Having a chaste relationship was such a struggle sometimes.  Lying in wait, full of longing...sounds like a season of Advent to me.  Grace and mercy will carry you through.

Know this: that every desire you feel for your husband-to-be, emotional, rational, and yes, sexual, is so good and so holy.  Chastity isn't about suppressing our desires, but orienting them in the right, most loving way at the right time.  Abstinence ends in marriage (with the exception of periodic abstinence when practicing NFP), but chastity doesn't.  All through your Advent, embrace the groaning.  Give yourself permission to feel, to hope, and to be purified.

"In hope we were saved."  Jesus' birth brings a thrill of hope; our ultimate hope, the perfect fulfillment of our desires, and new life.

I hope your first week of Advent is full of grace.  Also, I'd love to start a few little traditions for the season, starting with a wreath, now that Andrew and I are our own little family (as in, just the two of us for now; this is not a baby announcement!)--what are yours?

P.S. The photo at the top is of a wonderful Nativity sculpture on my college campus--don't you love how peaceful Our Lady looks lying next to her son, and what a protector Joseph is?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 5: Old Favorites

Head over to Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!  And, did you catch Jennifer Fulwiler's reflection on What I Wore Sunday in the National Catholic Register this week?  She has such a Theology of the Body-style approach to fashion, modesty, and confidence--the idea that the body expresses the person, and that the Mass is the ultimate special occasion.  It's both an intimate encounter with Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, and a celebration that unites us with the entire Church.  Love her thoughts!

Fact: shopping is a huge weakness of mine.  Today, however, I am proud to say that every item in this outfit is over two years old!  The scarf and sweater are from my high school days, and I bought the striped oxford six years ago during my freshman year of college.

Usually, I like wearing dresses and skirts to Mass, but on weeks like this when we help out with or speak to the youth group afterwards, I tend to go a little more casual, just for relatability's sake.  Clothes aren't everything, of course, but I do think that your appearance can be a huge part of meeting people where they are.  That's part of what I love about this linkup--fashion, when approached with virtue, can be a great way to evangelize, don't you think?

Oxford, American Eagle.  Sweater, Gap.  Scarf, I can't remember!  Jeans, Forever 21.  Boots, Ralph Lauren.  Sunglasses, Loft. 

By the way, I always mean to include my accessories in these posts, and then I forget.  I love statement necklaces and stacking my bracelets, but most days, I tend to wear the same few items.  For the sake of completeness, though, here's my typical daily collection:

My Miraculous Medal was given to me and blessed on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Philadelphia.  Andrew and I wear the same rosary bracelets, and the monogram bangle was my first anniversary present.  I've worn the same watch since I was 15, and to me, pearl earrings, the bigger the better, are the perfect way to top off just about any outfit.  I'd love to hear about your special pieces, too, so please do leave a comment and share!  Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 9

{story of a soul, condensed}

Visit Conversion Diary for other bloggers' Quick Takes!

{1} Since I didn't write Quick Takes last Friday, today's when you get a taste of my Thanksgiving!  These photos are of the Mediterranean feast Andrew's grandmother prepared, the cute little clementines she served alongside our baklava and pumpkin pie, the rosemary rolls we baked with my family for a second turkey dinner (so, so blessed to have celebrated two Thanksgivings in two days this year), and a little slice of winter sunshine.

{2} My sweet husband turned a quarter-century old this week!  To celebrate, I left work early and gifted him with a hefty, embossed-cover copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude to replace our battered secondhand one, and made a cheesecake and at-home version of his favorite Olive Garden pasta.  We both agreed that this recipe was better than the original!  I love the feeling of preparing something special for my husband and putting so much care and time into a meal.  I know people are always talking about The 5 Love Languages, but I seriously think we all need to add cooking as the sixth.

{3} Have you caught my latest writing outside of this blog lately?  You can read my Ignitum Today post on embarrassment and evangelization here, and my guest column on contraception for Arleen Spencely's blog here.  For better or worse, I'd so welcome your thoughts!

{4} On a similar enough note, last Sunday I gave a talk to the high school girls in our youth group on femininity, dignity, beauty, chastity, and the media--my favorite things to talk about, and I was happy with how we responded to each other.  Birth control is something I feel so passionately against.  When I was a chastity speaker, I'd bring in a Pill information packet and read off the side effects--the sheer size of the packet when it's unfolded, coupled with the extensive amount of warnings and effects, speaks for itself.  I used to count on the element of surprise, but I don't know; only two years later, it doesn't seem like as much of a shock to an audience, maybe because girls are being prescribed birth control at younger and younger ages.  I don't just want to scare people, I want to share my heart and my reasoning with them, too.  Anyway, we did a Q+A session afterwards, and so many were geared towards medical "needs" for the Pill.  I never want to call things out unlovingly, of course, or cause these girls to worry about sin, but I also want to make it clear to them that there are so many better ways to correct their cycles.  So, I'm asking you: what do you think is the best response to questions like these?  How do you answer a friend's question of what to do if a doctor tells you that birth control is the only solution to a reproductive issue?

{5} Have you ever revisited a book for pleasure that was once required reading, and come away with a completely different understanding?  I read The Great Gatsby my junior year of high school and am currently making my way through it for the second time.  It's amazing to consider all of the subtleties of relationships, social classes, and even simple dialogue that I would've missed as a 16-year-old.  There's nothing like a second, more mature reading, it seems, to show me the ways I've grown up.  Am I even making sense?  What's your favorite classic read?  I'd love to add your suggestions to my ever-growing list!

{6} I know, I know, Christmas isn't here just yet.  But if you're a gift-giving early bird like me, do yourself a favor and check out these free printable gift tags!  Adorable.  You know, now that I think of it, I'm early when it comes picking out and buying presents, but horrible about wrapping them in time for Christmas morning.  For the past six years, I have been up far into the night, clumsily cutting and taping yards of wrapping paper (gift-wrapping has never been one of my natural talents) on Christmas Eve while drinking tea and watching movies.  Maybe accessories like these, which need to be printed ahead of time, will be the motivation I need...

{7} Please, please listen to this, Ben Harper and Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland singing Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire, and tell me if you don't get chills.  They both sing with such longing.  I die.

Have a fantastic weekend; I'd love to know what you're up to!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lectio: The Jeweler's Shop

{recommended reading}

Confession time: I have not yet finished the book, or play rather, that I'm about to recommend to you.  But I'm confident; the author became our late, great, Pope and all, so I'm sure it will be worth my time.  The Jeweler's Shop is a play written by Karol Wojtyla, who, of course, became John Paul II (skiing, drama, camping...seriously, this man's talents never end), and since it's about engagement and marriage, I think it's a perfect pick as you prepare for or bask in your own wedding day and beyond.

The play examines the relationships of three couples: two are engaged, and among them one couple is content while the other feels reservations about their future (in their minds, everything is rational and right, yet they sometimes lack feelings of love), and the third is long-married but unhappy.  All of them have ties to the town jewelry shop, where they've bought their wedding rings.

If you're looking for tons of action and a plot-driven story, this is not it.  The Jeweler's Shop is more a series of monologues that reveal the state of each relationship.  The dialogue feels a little stilted to me so far, probably because it's translated from its original Polish.  Still, the thoughts and occasional doubts of the characters do transcend cultures and years.

I have tried, and failed, multiple times, to read another one of the Pope's most famous works, Love and Responsibility.  I did, however, make it through Dr. Edward Sri's excellent breakdown of the book.  Read it if you haven't.  Seriously.  Anyway, I feel like my existing knowledge of the Pope's philosophies on love, utility, emotions, and the human person came through so clearly in The Jeweler's Shop.  These couples wonder about love at first sight, how to will the good of your beloved, and how to balance the cerebral and emotional aspects of romance.  Me being a huge English dork, I love how literature can work in exactly the way this play does--through characters and dialogue, so many truths about life are illuminated in a way that doesn't feel preachy or educational.  Even if you aren't familiar with JPII's other writings, though, there's plenty to enjoy here.  I'm excited to finish it!

What about you?  Have any of you read The Jeweler's Shop?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Veritas: Dominic and Elayne

{real life love}

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to meet Elayne through my blog.  She and her husband Dominic are college sweethearts with an amazing story of coming to understand trust and authentic freedom together.  Elayne tells it so well that I'll let her take it from here!

Dominic and I were in the same major in college, and had many classes together even before we became friends.  Dominic says I was the prettiest girl in Civil Engineering (there were only about 5 of us girls...).

The hem of her dress!  The newsboy cap and suspenders!  That oh so gorgeous setting!
We started to talk when we worked together on a project called 'Concrete Canoe'.  Literally, Civil Engineers from all over gathered to race canoes made of concrete across a lake.  We traveled a few hours to the competition, and it turns out we were both happy to spend those hours in the same car.  On the trip home, Dominic claimed he was tired and wanted to sleep in the back seat, so he talked his friend into sitting in the front.  There in the backseat of a college friend's car, Dominic and I talked for hours.  We talked about family, friends, where we came from, and what we wanted in life.  By the time we reached the highway exit for our college, I knew I couldn't let the conversation end.  I asked him for his phone, and typed in my phone number.  This is completely out of character for me.  I just wanted to keep talking to him!

Luckily I made the first move, because it turns out, Dominic had a girlfriend at the time! He says he would have told me if I had asked, and I guess we are both lucky that I didn't.  By the time that car ride was over, he knew for sure that the girl he was dating then was not the one for him, and he broke up with her a few weeks later.

I loved our first date - Dominic cooked us dinner, we watched The Princess Bride (one of my favorites, and Dominic had never seen it), and we climbed the biggest hill in the neighborhood to look out at the city and the stars.  From then on, we were best friends, but life has its struggles.

As we were growing closer together, Dominic and I were also growing in our faith.  Dominic grew up with wonderfully faithful parents who taught him everything they could about being Catholic.  Throughout college, Dominic was discovering how to take their lessons and make his faith his own.  I grew up with supportive parents, but Sunday Mass was not part of our routine.  I also had never learned how to express my deepest thoughts and feelings effectively.  I craved physical attention and signs of love, and this took a huge toll on the health of our relationship.  After almost 2 years of dating, Dominic wisely decided that we needed to spend time apart.  For months he supported me as my best friend, but gave me space to continue to change and grow into a more mature and loving person.  Although it took me a few months, I came to see that this 'break' allowed us to restart our relationship on solid ground.

This 'break' also coincided with our college graduation, and gave us the freedom to make our own decisions on jobs and careers.  We both ended up moving to Columbus, Ohio, and continued to attend Mass together, becoming very active in a small parish.  We decided in August of 2011 to date again, and quickly knew we wanted to marry.

Dominic proposed on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  After a dinner of my favorite foods, we went to our church to pray.  Fittingly enough, the church has a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe for veneration.  We prayed a rosary together, whispering in the back pew because a few ladies were also there praying.  As we reached the end of the Rosary, we paused to mention our specific intentions...and Dominic's intention was that I would marry him!  It was so sweet, and so perfect for us.

We decided on Sept 15th for our wedding because it is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  We loved the idea of turning to our Sorrowful Mother in times of distress.  During our wedding planning, Dominic started a new job about 90 minutes away.  Neither of us likes to talk on the phone, so that put some strain on us!  The wedding planning came easily to us, and we spent months making decorations and hand-tying Rosaries for all our guests.  I was very pleased with our effort to focus on the wedding Mass, rather than just the reception afterward.  Several people told us and our families that our wedding was the most sacramental they had been to--quite the compliment!  We ditched any tradition that didn't make sense to us (like the garter toss), and started our own (like having a morning mass and a brunch!)  Saying the Rosary with our guests before the Mass started was a highlight for much love and support flowing from those prayers.

I would like to add that, although we had no real issues with wedding Bridezilla moments or breakdowns...we were stressed!  I thought if I showed I was stressed, I would seem unsure about marriage.  But the truth is, planning a huge party takes a lot of work!  I never doubted my vocation, I just wanted to make sure everyone had a good time.

Today Dominic and I are still living 90 minutes apart as I finish my work as an engineer and move on to a new chapter in January.  The distance is so much more bearable with a definite timeline in place (12 weeks!)
We'd love the prayers of anyone reading this.  I have PCOS symptoms and don't ovulate regularly.  We've found solace in novenas to St. Gerard Majella, who has already shown us one miracle:  a visit to an OB/GYN in August led to the diagnosis of PCOS, and I was scared.  My mother-in-law suggested prayer to St. Gerard Majella, and we chose a novena.  The very first day of that novena, I started a complete first in 18 months!  God is good!

Isn't this amazing?  Miracles are real, and with her realization that stressing about your wedding isn't the same as stressing about your vocation, Elayne has to be one of the most wise, self-aware brides I've ever spoken to.  Join me in lifting up Elayne, Dominic, and God willing, their future family in prayer!  

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