Preparing for the Second Coming

Reflection on Today’s Gospel: Luke 21:29-33

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Today’s Gospel reminds me of another passage where Jesus is talking of a similar topic and he says, “Can you not recognize the signs?” Today he talks about the fig trees, when they bloom we know it’s winter.

Now I know that it’s almost winter now, the days are colder, the sun is setting earlier, and I’m wrapped up in a blanket with my slippers on more often than not. I look outside my window and recognize that the signs of winter are all around me and I act appropriately. I wear a coat, drink lots of hot tea, and like being inside more than outside.

Here in the south, spring comes rather early. Waking up to the birds singing, flowers blooming on the trees, and a warmer climate are all signs that spring are coming. When I think about the signs that govern the seasons, I’m excellent and reading them and predicting the weather.

But how am I at predicting the signs that Jesus is coming? We are in the final week of the Church year, Sunday is our Liturgical New Year as we begin Advent. This past week we’ve been reflecting on readings that look toward the second coming of Christ. The next two weeks will follow these same theme. In Advent we begin by reflecting on the 2nd coming and end by reflecting on the 1st coming of Christ.

Am I reading the signs of the times? Am I preparing my heart for the second coming? Paul speaks of it in the new testament as if it would come during his lifetime (it did not). However, the second coming of Christ could be during our lifetimes, we don’t know. Christ tells us that we will know neither the day nor the hour, but we are to be awake and ready for when it does.

Am I committed to my relationship with Him or am I waiting for some time in the future when I can get started on that? Am I in right relationship with my family and friends? Are there people I need to forgive? Are there people I need to ask for forgiveness from? Have I been to confession lately? Am I a regular at Sunday Mass?

Spend a few moments today and tomorrow preparing yourself for Advent. Take time to settle on a Liturgical New Year’s Resolution that will help to strengthen your faith in this new year. Maybe it’s a daily decade of the Rosary or monthly Confession or taking a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect and be grateful.

You know neither the day nor the hour that our Lord is coming, so what will you do today to prepare?

Featured today on Carpe Verbum

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7QT Thanksgiving Edition

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Since it’s still Thanksgiving weekend, I thought I would write about the reasons why I am grateful this year.

1. A new little man came into my life this year who I have the privilege of being the godmother of, which is such a delight! Also he’s just super cute!

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from a recent baby-sitting adventure

2. My friends all give me a window into the lives of their families by inviting me to birthday parties, Baptisms, and family events. My heart melts every time one of them calls me “Aunt Katie” and the amazing thank you notes I receive after, written from the perspective of the child have a special place on my refrigerator!

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3. I was able to travel a lot this year for work and for pleasure. My favorite place was, of course, Greece!

4. I’ve been striving to be a better sister and daughter this year with my family, and I’m grateful for my family seeming to be growing closer as well. We are even taking a week-long vacation together this summer. Oh how I love the beach!

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I hope this is our view from the house!

5. I’ve tried to take on a life of adventure this year by taking advantage of the amazing places I get to visit. So I’ve enjoying time in LA, spent extra time in Texas, and been to NYC a few times!

6. I’ve been trying to start a book club this year for six years and was finally successful this year! We’ve read some really great books so far!

7. Finally I’m grateful for the privilege of another year. Taking all of the things I’ve learned this year and being able to apply them to my life, especially the amazing things I’ve learned about myself, shame, and vulnerability from Brenè Brown. They have been absolutely amazing and I cannot thank her enough for these books that have changed my life.

Joining all the great bloggers over at This Ain’t the Lyceum for this weeks quick takes.

7QT from Brené Brown

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If you’re new here, you might not know my fascination obsession with Brené Brown. But her books, videos, podcasts have dominated my self-improvement year and mostly in the last few months. She’s published a few books, and I was introduced to her via this article a while ago from Verily, my favorite online magazine. I promptly ordered her first book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), The Journey of “What will people think” to “I am enough.” (amazon)

Being enough is something that I really struggle with and have written about a lot in the past (here). So I started reading this book over a year ago and was so moved by the first chapter. I felt like she was writing my personal journal. I’m still working on completing that book and have been reading for months now a chapter a month with a friend who’s also finding her life changed because of it. I listened to her next book back in January and then purchased her 4th book for my friends and we are reading that together now. I then found out she had a 3rd book which I promptly purchased and read in a matter of a few weeks. Now she’s got a 5th book out. I’m going to write about all of them later, but I’ll stick to a few things we should all do well to remember about shame first.

1. Shame is never helpful and is not the same thing as guilt. The basic definition of shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believe we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” At it’s simplest explanation:

Shame says, “I am bad” and Guilt says, “I did something bad”.

2. Shame is more than just people in our lives or even the stories in our heads. It comes from our culture as well. There’s no real way to “get rid” of shame, but we can develop shame resilience. We do this with four, not so easy, steps:

  1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Our Triggers: if we don’t get that what we’re experiencing is shame, then we cannot combat it. The first step is determining that it’s shame and saying that out loud to ourselves.
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness: realizing where it’s coming from. Is it a cultural thing? Are our mothers triggering it for us? Is it our friends or spouses? Something they said or did?
  3. Reaching Out: we need people to talk to about this. Brown says no more than 1-2, maybe 3 people that we talk to about our shame. These should be people who are there for us and willing to create space for our stories.
  4. Speaking Shame: we have to talk about it. The only way to face the monster who loves the dark is to expose the light onto it. We cannot keep shame in the darkness, that’s where it grows.

3. Listen to Brené Brown talk about this on Oprah:

4. It’s so important to speak about it because we all have it, it’s a human primitive emotion that we all experience. It can happen in just an instance, or it can be something we marinate in over a life time.

5. Am I worth of love and belonging? Watch this:

6. There are so many times when we say the sentence “I would be enough if I _____”

  • Lost 20 pounds
  • Had a spouse
  • Was a mom
  • Had a better job
  • Was holier
  • Was happier

I could really go on all day, but after reading Brené Brown and immersing myself in her books and her research, I know that sentence is all about shame. It’s not about love, belonging, or even the ability to be me. Celebrating who God made me to be.

7. I have a couple of friends I go to when I’m experiencing shame. A long time friend who I didn’t know I could rely on for this, but we had lunch a few weeks ago. I had listened to a bunch of Brené Brown podcasts (I’ll share those later) on my way to his place via a work trip, so he got a a minor breakdown and an earful. He’s continued to be there for me in this capacity. He made sure to say as we were parting, “We can talk about this stuff at other times too, not just when we have lunch every 4 to 6 months. I’m serious, call me if you need me.” That’s been so helpful, someone who’s outside of my daily life and who I experience no shame around to be there for me in this way. I guess the grace of the sacrament of ordination is really coming through.

Linking up again with Kelly and the gang, so head over there for some more fantastic quick takes (who are probably a little quicker than mine!).

That Time I Talked to a MatchMaking Company*

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Recently, I reached out to a national company about matchmaking services. It’s not that I’m in the market for purchasing a husband, but finding one via other traditional methods or online hasn’t been successful. I thought, “let’s find someone else to do the work for you.” So I submitted a contact form over the weekend and expected a call early in the week. I received an email that he had tried to reach me but couldn’t. Fair enough, I believe my phone number was typed incorrectly OR that could be what he does all of the time to not make so many outbound calls.

We set a time later in the day to talk. He was more than 20 minutes late, at which point he sent in an email saying he would be even longer. We spoke on the phone for almost an hour sharing a few nuggets of information.

  • This organization has been around for over 25 years and set up more than 3 million first dates. [sharing history & reputation]
  • They don’t take everyone they speak to because they are a quality service and value quality over quantity. He accepts maybe 3 or 4 of every 10 people he speaks to as a client. [creating scarcity & exclusivity]
  • After asking a question or when I would say something he would reply, “Beautiful, I know a lot of the guys I’ve signed up recently will really like that about you.” [playing into my need for feeling important]

After about 40 minutes of me telling him about myself, sharing a picture, and then telling him what I’m looking for in a “special someone” (his words) we get to the product. They don’t work for free and he reminded me that “you get what you pay for” a few times.

They have two different levels – a 10 month program with two coaching sessions or, his preferred method because he knows how easy it’s going to be to set me up on dates, a 6 months program with one coaching sessions. Both guarantee at least one quality date a month (there’s that quality word again). The prices are about $2k different. Yes, that’s thousands of dollars.

Going in I had absolutely NO idea what to expect regarding price. I figured it was more than a couple hundred dollars, but spending more than I would on a European Vacation wasn’t what I was thinking. Right when I had my head wrapped around the second package price, under $3k, still expensive, but I was seriously considering – he then remembers that there’s a whole different package for people in the Carolinas due to our legal code, etc. SO scratch everything I had been told about price.

In the Carolina’s it’s a minimum of a 7 month program, 2 coaching sessions, and at least one “quality” date per month. Oh, and you only have to put down 30% (when doing the math is a little more than that) today and then pay the rest of it monthly. This is a great time to get in because it’s their busiest season, people trying to settle down before the holidays. So we can just put this on your credit card and get started.

I said, “Um, no … that’s a little more than I was expecting, around $3k today and $300 a month. Also, I don’t put things like that on my credit card and pay them off over the course of a year. I don’t pay interest on big ticket items I don’t absolutely need that I cannot afford.”

I said I’d need some time to think it over. To really figure out if I had $5k to give this in the next seven months. I mean that’s more than 10% of my take home pay and the only thing I’ve ever spent more than $300 a month on is my mortgage, rent or student loan payments.

He did that one great trick though to try to get me to say yes right away, right now. He said, “Well, I find that when we get off the phone the excitement dies down for people and they aren’t as serious when making the next step.”

By that, I think he meant, “When we get off the phone, $5k seems like an even bigger amount and it scares people. They realize they don’t have that, it would be a poor financial decision for them, and they aren’t as committed as they thought they were to finding that ‘special someone.’ So with all that in mind, why don’t we just put this on your credit card.”

I told him he could call me back later this week and that I would have a decision by then. Then I talked to two friends who gave similar opinions. They both said, “That’s a trip to Europe.”

It is, and with miles from AA, it could be two trips to Europe. Or maybe 10 weekends away in the next year to see family, friends, or just new places or a lot of other things I’d really like!

So now I have to figure out how to tell Chris no … probably just like this: “Thank you for taking the time to get to know me on Monday and share more about what you do at MatchMaking Company (MMC). I’ve spoken with trusted friends (those who support me on my dating journey) and looked at my finances to see if I can make this work. However, it would not be financially responsible for me to enter into a contract with MMC at this time. I know that you are a great company, have beautiful success stories, but I will not sacrifice my future by draining my savings or incurring credit card debt. So I’m going to pass on the opportunity at this time. If something should change for me in the future, I will reach out to see if MMC is still willing to take me on as a client.”

I actually did send him that exactly in an email on the day I said would make a decision by. I got you response. He didn’t even respond with a “thank you for letting me know, best of luck” which is what I send to my prospects who say no to me. If he has time to speak with every potential client on an hour long qualifying call, then he has time to send me a quick reply. It could even be a saved signature in his email. By Friday he probably forgot about me entirely.

Honestly, that was probably even too generous of a “no” since he’d already emailed me as a follow up and says “It was great to speak to you briefly and I am happy to hear this is something fitting for your lifestyle right now. I’m very excited for you to get out there dating and having fun!” Did I tell you it was “fitting into my lifestyle right now”?

Well Chris, I’m glad you’re excited. I’m excited too … starting to look at tickets to Europe or one of the other six great things I could do with $4,495!

*name of MatchMaking Company withheld

** now I’ve got the song stuck in my head and I’ve never even seen the entire play…

Flex Your Style

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At work we subscribe to a particular sales philosophy and have been using the same trainers for two years in row. He’s also coming back this January. The first year was good, but he didn’t know us yet. He hadn’t met any of our sales reps and didn’t really get what we sold or that it was to Churches who are a little different than other for-profit businesses. This guy has a bunch of books and I’ve interacted with a few people on his team now outside of him speaking with us at our January Sales Kick Off.

I’m almost always impressed by what he says, and really appreciate his writing because so much of it applies to things outside of work and selling. The reason? Because selling and buying is human. I’m a human, and surprise all of the other people I interact with are also humans. The techniques he’s teaching us are good for relationships.

Now this year I’ve read a lot of books about relating, vulnerability, the spiritual life, and overall general self-improvement. A few have been more life-changing than others, but the woman who gets me the most is Brené Brown and her work about vulnerability. I could link a video here but that wouldn’t even begin to help you understand why I love her work. Suffice it to say, go read it. Not now though, because she’s got a lot and it’ll take a while before you come back.

Back to our sales trainer and his books. He writes about why people buy from you, why they follow you, how to prospect like a fanatic, and his newest book is about EQ. That’s Emotional Intelligence, if you aren’t on the up and up for all the different “Q’s” a person can have. They are IQ, AQ, TQ, and EQ (Intelligence, Actual, Technical, & Emotional). Together they make for a very powerful human being. Someone who has the smarts, knows how they relate to everyday life, gets technology and how to use it to help them, and has emotional intelligence to effectively build relationships … they are amazing. I have some of all of those things, but not quite at the amazing level.

The book we’re ready for this January came out a few months ago, but last year at the kick off he was still writing it and gave us a pretty good preview of what was coming. He made sure to say that the things he’s teaching us relating to EQ can be applied to all relationships but to remember that a salesperson / customer relationship is not the same as with family, friends, or our spouse. The work relationship is superficial. We want it to be as authentic as possible, but there’s a goal in mind and it’s not to make the other person the best-version-of-themselves. It’s to get the sale. That’s why we’re there, and everyone knows it.

But this customer craves a relationship always answering these questions: Do I like You? Do you listen to me?, Do you make me feel important?, Do you get me and my problems?, and Do I trust and believe you? If they can say “yes” to all five of those questions, they are more likely to buy from you.

The best way to walk through these stages of questions with your customers is to manage your own emotions to really speak to them in the style they prefer. Our own style preference is neither here nor there. We just need to know it, so we can keep it in the background. If I’m a big talker (and I am), then I need to flex my style to be a better listener. Nothing is better than when your customer is telling you a great story. It says a lot about them, what’s important to them, and where your company might fit into theirs.

We all have dominate styles. It’s natural. We can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. We will have a default style, but if you want to communicate with someone the best way to do it is in the way that they will understand best. If I don’t speak spanish, and you call me up with a pitch in spanish, I’m going to hang up.

That seems obvious, but if you say this instead: “If I communicate best in stories, and you ask me to give you three bullet points, and then proceed to talk at me for 45 minutes, I’m going to hang up.”

We have to see these two statement as equals. We cannot communicate well with someone if we aren’t speaking their language. This includes the translation, body language, tone, and style.

To illustrate this in our training, he inevitably brings this back to other relationships we all experience regularly. Since most of the room is married (actually all but maybe 3 of us), he relays some experiences with his wife. He says that we all falter. He is actually writing the book on this and still slips with his wife. It’s natural. Whenever we’re tired, hungry, irritated, or in some other not great state we can slip into our default and not even realize it until it’s too late.

This happens to me. My default is to be impatient and not-compassionate when someone asks me the same question for the fifth or tenth or one-hundredth time. If I’m tired, upset, feeling shame, hungry, irritated, etc. then I default to short answers. I’m constantly interrupted at work with all kinds of things that aren’t my job any more and that makes me irritated which makes me short with replies and responses. It’s not my finest moment, but it’s my problem, not my co-worker’s. I need to flex my style. I need to adjust my attitude and mindset before I react to them.

In our sales meeting though one of our consultants says “Can you call my wife and tell her why I’m the way I am so she’ll stop bugging me?”

Seriously!

I wanted to say, “now that you know the rational reasons behind why you’re having this disagreement (and not constant fighting), why don’t you choose to flex your style to best serve her?”

If we can flex styles for our customers, we can surely flex styles for our spouses, family, and friends. This is absolutely the hardest thing to do, but makes all the difference in the relationship. I need to flex my style more often, readjust based on what’s needed for the relationship.

This means my tone, my body language, my speaking style, and the way I bring up particular topics and if I do at all. I think if we all did this we would transform our relationships!

If the type of EQ you’re looking for is sales, check out his book.

7 Quick Things I Could Do With $4,495

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1. I could buy 3,250 copies of one of my favorite books from this year to share with my parish at Christmas. We wouldn’t even need that many copies! Dynamic Catholic offers an amazing deal to help change the Church with their $1 Parish Book Program (see details). How life changing could this be?

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2. I could fly to Portugal for my birthday, round-trip, 6 times! SIX TIMES! How amazing would just one trip be?

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2. I could go on 9 $500 weekend trips in 2018 to places like Montana, the Beach, Main, Wyoming, Denver, the Grand Canyon, San Diego, Chicago, and Texas! How much fun would that be?

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4. I could add some serious money to my retirement fund. Not as exciting or life changing as those other items, but now $26,000 when I’m ready to retire at a modest rate. That’s probably a year of living expenses!

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5. I could (& already did this year) buy a brand new A/C unit. How “cooling” is that?

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6. I could pay off my last student loan and still have money left over. How amazing to my monthly budget would that extra $400 be?

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7. I could buy an entire new wardrobe! This one I could really use as in the last ten months I’ve lost twice that in pounds (that’s 20, btw). How fashionable would that be?

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Why am I contemplating what to do with $4,495? Because this week I was told I could pay that amount to a matchmaker for a few first dates. I have it in my savings account, but is that how I should be spending more than half of my emergency fund? Um, no. I couldn’t. It would be so irresponsible and goes against everything I believe about money. So I’m dreaming up the amazing things I could do with that money and maybe I’ll do a few of those in 2018!

Linking up with Kelly and the gang today! Check out more SQT over there!

My Favorite Podcasts

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I’ve been meaning to write about my favorite podcasts. Since I’m tv free this year, podcasts are my “noise” entertainment, and also a companion for my morning (or more lately afternoon) walks every day. So in case you need a new online friend, check out some of these!

  1. The Restless Heart Podcast (listen) by David and Nessa. I’ve been a reader of David’s for a while on his blog and if I’m perfectly honest, started listening because I’ve got a small crush on him. He also has a fantastic British accent, which makes everything better, in my opinion. He and Nessa take on topics like prayer, saints, the early church fathers, dating (always Nessa), and more. I really appreciate the simple format and am always uplifted after listening to an episode. I especially loved this one on Confession – get thee to confession and then get thee a milkshake!
  2. There are two great news shows I love: Up First (listen) by NPR for some quick news each morning. They publish this every weekday and it’s just about 13 to 15 minutes maximum each morning. The Daily (listen) by The New York Times is my second news love. It’s a 20 to 25 minute episode each weekday with a focus on one story for 95% of the episode and then gives you a few additional items you should know today, which typically on Up First that same morning.
  3. Ever since my Julie, my roommate in college, introduced me to random facts year ago, I cannot get enough. There are two great podcasts in my lineup that satisfy this curiosity each week. This Week I Learned (listen) by The Week and No Such Thing As A Fish (listen) by QI. There’s also The Way I Heard It (listen) by Mike Rowe and Trump Con Law (listen) where I learn a ton every time!
  4. There are a bunch of NPR podcasts I am faithful to as well like This American Life (listen), Serial (listen), Freakonomics (listen), Hidden Brain (listen), Embedded (listen), How I Built This (listen), More Perfect (listen), and Radio Lab (listen).
  5. A random one a friend introduced me to a while ago for a fake internet court called Judge John Hodgman (listen) who I saw in person a few weeks ago and it was great!
  6. Last, but certainly  not least a few great Catholic ones:
    • The Catholic Feminist (listen) with Claire S who is great, challenging, and faithful.
    • Do Something Beautiful (listen) with Leah Darrow who has great guests on and is just a delight!
    • Hobo for Christ (listen) by Meg. I don’t listen to this all that often because when I do it’s shot right in the heart that I need to hear and make some serious changes!
    • The Catholic Guy Show (listen) when I need a Lino fix and have two hours, which isn’t that often. Lino and I have an on-again, off-again relationship where he doesn’t know me, but sometimes we’re fighting.
    • The Catholic Hipster (listen) which is my newest exploration. I’m liking so far even though I’ve only listened a few times.

There might be a few others in the mix there every once in a while like The Sporkful and Revisionist History and recently anything where my girl Brene Brown was interviewed. I know it’s a lot – but I don’t listen to all of them all of the time … so what else should I add to my feed?