Friday, June 21, 2019

Expanding Horizons

Today is the first day of summer and I got to enjoy beautiful home area views like this as I drove home to my parents with Charlotte.


My summer online class is in the next to last week of running. July is right around the corner which is the month I hope to step away from doing schoolwork.....hope being the operative word as July is the only month I don't teach my regular teaching load but there are so many projects in the works at the a good way!

Yesterday, I received word that a paper was accepted to be presented in the Czech Republic and tomorrow I will be in Philadelphia for a morning workshop at a conference on instructional technology where I am excited to learn new things! Next week, a chapter I am writing for a monograph in Madrid, Spain is due and moving parts are coming together for an exciting research opportunity through a grant proposal that is due in a couple weeks.

Ever since stepping off the planes that brought us back to America from Austria exactly one month ago from today, we have been running around town getting our house and cars back in shape, Charlotte has been loving her time at a new activity center for children and families that opened in our town, I have been home at my parents' house three times, and we have had the unexpected pleasure of connecting with not one, not two, but five members of our Austrian family in Ohio!!  Actually, eight if you count the three students we met in Austria who are working in Ohio for the summer who have already been to our house for dinner!

We had three of the Sisters over for lunch last week. Two of them had been in Austria and it was so delightful to host them in our home! I was especially excited to serve Sr. Eliana coffee from our new coffee machine! She approved!

The day after lunch, while at work, I saw Fr. Jonathan! Again  it was incredible connecting with someone we had gotten close to in Europe here on US soil. Finally, on Wednesday, when teaching at the activity center, I was able to catch up with a dear sweet friend from Austria who is spending time here with her hubby's family. I had to laugh when Courtney said, "It feels like I just saw you!" as a greeting since I felt the same way and am sooooo thankful for these amazing friends we met due to our shared experiences in Austria!

Who would have thought that this one semester abroad would lead to such sweet friendships and afforded me the professional opportunities in not only Austria but also in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, and beyond as well as locally in Ohio?!

In the next month, now that it is officially summer, I hope things slow down and I can reconnect with those I have not been able to see since fall semester!
Three nephews and one niece were awaiting our arrival at Mom and Dad's house. My niece snapped this photo. When I saw it, I was struck by the visual reminder to take the time to stop and try to sloooooow down in the next couple weeks now that summer is here. Hmm.... Maybe after VBS ends and we show Mason and Braden a good time during the annual summer visit of a niece and nephew! This will be Mason's fifth summer of visiting and Braden's first one...soooo excited! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Closing Time

The class song for my senior class was Closing Time. The lyrics for this redundant number are below...I always thought this song was about being out late at night before the bar closed. I read recently, though, that it is about birth and the baby leaving the womb for the unknown. I couldn't help but think of this song as I realized something tonight in a completely different context.

Nine years ago on this day, I made the decision to leave life as I knew it in York, Pennsylvania to follow a dream down in North Carolina. I prepared to be a special educator from 1998-2002 then in 2010, I made a leap to start working on my doctorate! It is wild to think that I have now been in higher education for nine years!

Looking at these pictures of places where I have been from hanging in our home tonight makes me wonder what beginning will come from some other beginning's end in the next nine years? I bought the Pittsburgh picture in the black frame back in college when Dad and I were picking up last minute Christmas gifts from the mall by my Grandma's house. At the time, I had no idea what life would end up looking like or that four states and twelve years later, I would wind up within 45 minutes of the Steel City again on my way to becoming a wife and mom. The Greensboro painting was a goodbye gift from dear friends as I prepared to leave North Carolina but what the couple who gave it to me could not have known is that this scene reminds me of a special moment. That scene takes me back to the romantic cold night when Adam and I went ice skating in the outdoor rink by those city buildings before winding up at a local brewery a few blocks away where he shared shocking news with me that he was falling in love!

Hmm...I just realized I don't have a picture to represent when I lived in Delaware! I do, however, have some letter tiles that spell out Lewes (the name of the small beach town where I lived) that are in display in the same room. My hometown of Frackville is not represented on this wall either. However, I have a bunch of fall foliage pictures from there hanging up elsewhere in our home so that is probably okay. ;) 

This was a parting gift from the Study Abroad Program. It now hangs in our living room so I can see it every day - - our most recent new and now former home.

When I purchased this during an Art Festival (yeah, Kipona!), I had expected to live in this area for a long time. Little did I know that York was going to become a cherished new hometown. York remains a place I would return to in a heartbeat!

How cute are these magnets created by the same artist who made the prints of York from my Wall of Places I've Lived... I may need a second fridge just for the magnets I want from this stock photo on the artist's website!! ;} 
The last few days I have been pondering how folks set out to move forward and over obstacles, with all these thoughts of literal and figurative places to be, to keep from being stuck in a rut.

Some avoid.

Some run away (think fight or fight) and some deny anything is wrong.

Some face their challenges head on while others bury their heads in the sand.

The main theme that seems to come up is perspective. When one changes how something is viewed and how to live with whatever the "it" is, growth can occur. The other day, I heard an interesting view about suffering. It went something like this: Healing may not look the way you think it will. A person may still die of disease. Yet through that illness, the person was able to offer it up for a loved one or the person experienced a conversion of the heart that may not otherwise have happened. This means the suffering was not in vain even if the person did not experience a cure.

I have been thinking of the concept of redemptive suffering a bit since hearing that reminder. Jesus did not promise things would be easy or that things would stay the same. What he did promise is that he will never abandon us and what a terrific reminder of this through today being Pentecost Sunday! Come, Holy Spirit! No matter where we live or what we have done in our lives to separate us from the Lord...God wants us to come to Him and to rely on Him. Unlike city or state lines, God's grace knows no boundaries.  Sometimes the forgiveness we are seeking has to come from within ourselves.

Closing time 
Time for you to go out go out into the world. 
Closing time 
Turn the lights up over every boy and every girl. 
Closing time 
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer. 
Closing time 
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.
I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
Take me home
Closing time 
Time for you to go back to the places you will be from. 
Closing time 
This room won't be open 'til your brothers or you sisters come. 
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits 
I hope you have found a 
Closing time 
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
Yeah, I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
Take me home
Closing time 
Time for you to go back to the places you will be from
I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
I know who I want to take me home. 
Take me home
Closing time 
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Associating" with some exciting news I almost forgot....!

I'm currently still in Austria as the students, staff, and faculty are in the midst of studying, taking finals, grading, and packing.  It also happens to be Mother's Day and the day after graduation back in Ohio.  My family and I board a plane in nine days to return to reality and all the responsibilities that come with being Ohio residents again so my thoughts are with those celebrating in the states as we look ahead to what the future holds as well.

Over the last couple months, some folks have expressed how it looks like I'm enjoying our vacation while here in Europe.  It may seem that it has been all play and no work given the pictures that have been posted here and there and the exploring we've been doing when on breaks from school but this past semester has been filled to the brim with working and servant leadership.

However, our time here has been so very fruitful and blessed in spite of the long hours. 

When I look back at all that has transpired since January, I can hardly believe all that has occurred.  I'm not done with my grading yet but the work these students have produced while here (in spite of travels, intense workloads, and being out of our usual climates and surroundings) has been nothing short of amazing. 

They were more intentional in their work. 

They applied the concepts being discussed in class in a thoughtful way to their performance-based assessments. 

I've seen students striving to do their best and I've seen students struggle through challenges to grow not only academically but also personally. 

It's been surreal at times and not always easy but I'm really glad to have had the chance to live abroad, to work alongside these students, to meet those outside my major in which I work, and to get to know and come to love the people who work here year round.  This place is incredibly special and I hope continues to grow and thrive as this program is such an asset and gift to the university.

Fr. Jonathan talked today about how mothers "shepherd" their children and they come to recognize the voices of Mom from anywhere.  He likened this to how we, as followers of Christ, should also come to recognize His voice as we seek His will in all we do.  Earlier this week, my students and I talked about what does this mean for the classroom?  What does this mean for teachers and students and the importance of getting to know one another, of building relationships and rapport, of taking the time to cultivate and build that trust and bond with one another year in and year out in education?  We had some fruitful discussion on this and I'm going to miss these thoughtful exchanges over the summer!  Hmm....maybe we can keep this going beyond this semester via email??!

Looking back on this semester, as a rotating faculty member here, I've been able to teach four classes when the norm is three.  I co-wrote or independently wrote three manuscripts and am in the middle of a fourth one.  I oversaw a Women's Invested Small Group with six lovely college students each week.  I counseled and advised countless students (even those outside the major).  I published the monthly newsletter for my department, oversaw the group page on our learning management system, and participated in some meetings on main campus thanks to virtual collaboration. 

On the ground here, I helped with tours with local schoolchildren, set up language enrichment literacy activities in local schools and on campus, was able to visit all of the partner schools here in Austria (six or seven...I lost track), implemented a new program (SO excited about the SOARING initiative!!), got to know the already established program for EDU majors here a bit better, proposed setting up Readers Theatre projects in a local Kindergarten classroom, created a manual that will contain Text Sets and other language activities to be used by a variety of individuals here, helped acquire 20 children's picture books for the library on this campus, began a study on teaching English as a foreign language to a kindergarten class with a colleague, helped formalize a structure for EDU majors to assess a child with Down Syndrome, to design an intervention, and engage in progress monitoring, am looking into forming a connection with a school for students with special needs and EDU majors, created two professional development workshops for EDU majors, and provided guidance to a new student group for members who are here this semester as well.  I gave three talks and participated on a panel discussion.  I was able to participate in a book study with the women of the community each week and I was able to learn more about how Ministry to Moms is run here.  I was able to help with ensuring a couple copies of the university magazine will be sent here in future semesters and was able to hold a conversation gathering with the women and their needs to help with forming stronger connections between Ohio and Gaming.

I didn't share my story with the girls from Small Group so the author of this thank you note had no way of knowing the impact her words would have on me.  God sure does have a way of working through others and providing us with what we need at just the right time.  So thankful to be able to work with the students in these ways while at the same time hopefully still doing an adequate job in meeting Charlotte's and Adam's needs.
In a sense, it feels like nothing can top this semester in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service.  I loved getting to mentor the students in a completely different way by sharing in the off and on campus experiences with them and allowing them into our home (and lives) through their vested interest in getting to know us as a family.  All of the activities I list here certainly could not have happened without the support of my family and other members of this community!  It truly does take a village and here there is something quite special about the sense of support that is felt here.  Through my experiences here, folks lend helping hands without thinking twice about it and genuinely seem to care.  It's going to be hard to say goodbye in a little over a week but I'm thankful for technology to keep us connected!  Adam & I will be returning to a different sort of supportive network.  Here, I was able to engage in what I am truly passionate about & I hope I can hold on to this vigor upon returning to main campus.

Speaking of main campus, after mass this morning, the director approached me and wished me, "Congratulations!" 

I thought, "For what?!" before he reminded me of the graduation ceremonies that occurred yesterday.

Since I'm here in Austria, I was unable to attend the graduation on main campus.  However, it was streamed live.  If you play the Sciences Commencement from 30 min. 32 secs. to 32 min., you'll see why he said congrats...specifically from 31 min. 40 secs. to 31 min. 58 secs.  ;)

I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this particular milestone without the support of those in our lives prior to Gaming!  Thank you to all who played any role, no matter how small or big, in helping me to achieve this dream.

The Communion song today was, "It is Well".  This song holds a special place in my heart and is especially connected to Charlotte, Adam, & me (and her Baptism mass!).  As we face the return to regular life in Ohio and leaving behind the lovely folks we've met here, yet again God is reminding me that all will be well.  This morning's mass was incredibly raw for me as I faced all sorts of thoughts and feelings with regard to motherhood, both planned and unplanned experiences that come along with being Charlotte's mom.  As Charlotte Annie nestled in my arms, I thought over the last three Mother's Days I've been fortunate enough to experience as her mother.  This is my fourth Mother's Day and each year, the day is spent vacillating from one end to the other as far as emotions go.  In the days leading up to this weekend, I said goodbye to the women in my small group, have been bidding my students farewell as we wrap up final exams, and mentally am preparing to say goodbye to where we've called home the last four months including the spiritual and physical mothers I've been spending time with while here.  I'm not sure that I'm ready to be back in the environment that is rewarding yet triggering for me in the way of personal dreams and hopes.  I'm not sure that I'm ready to be outnumbered by so many in the way of family size and family composition.  I'm not sure that I'm ready to be spread out so far and thin in the name of professional lives.  I'm not sure that I'm ready to go back to a lack of the close female companionship I've come to know and love here.

Yet I know that we are where are meant to be and are heading to where God wants us for now.  God has this.  He is pouring grace upon grace on us to face the unknown.  He is using our talents and gifts as long as we get out of the way and allow Him to work through us.  I'm ready to continue serving along this current path. 

I'm ready to continue to try to meet the needs of the larger families in the small ways I can. 

I'm ready to continue to actively take on mothering Charlotte in Ohio in the best way I can. 

I'm ready to try to keep these connections we've made with those who are staying here and to actively cultivate and nurture them even when we're half a world away from them. 

Yes, I'll leave a little piece of my heart here in Gaming but will take the inspiration I've gained from knowing these folks with me as we seek to reenter our pre-Gaming lives.

Yes, it is indeed well and I thank God for the small, and big, ways He continues to lead my family and me!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

PIC ME (part 3)

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker.  Adam and I got married at a church named St. Joseph.  I had also finished a novena praying for my future spouse to St. Joseph in the months before meeting Adam.  My childhood church was St. Joseph and my favorite grade in elementary school and favorite teacher (Ms. Bednar in 5th grade) were experienced in that same building. 

So, today seems like a good day to share with you the "C" from the PIC ME acronym I shared during the Dating to Marriage talk that I helped with back in February.

Let's review though...."P" was to pray for your future spouse and the three part prayer.

"I" was to be more intentional...with your to be selective with whom you choose to invest in or spend your time with while discerning marriage so as to not waste anyone's time.

So what is the "C"???

When I spoke to the room of college students with some other wives of the community, I said to center yourself on Christ.  I spoke of how I focused on my relationship with Christ while praying for my future spouse.  I took that time of being single to attend Young Adult events, to go on retreats, to form faith-based friendships, to grown and learn through talks I would hear at Theology on Tap events, and to get back to going to Adoration (something I had done occasionally as a child but hadn't delved into as an adult).  I even became a cheerleading coach at a Catholic high school which, now, as I look back, I can see it helped to lead me in the direction of leaving public school teaching to go teach at a Catholic school.

Instead of pursuing a guy or dating someone I knew was not really long term material, I instead focused on growing in my relationship with God and in learning more and more about my faith through listening to podcasts, Lighthouse CDs, reading books, and going to Catholic conferences and talks.  It helped being in a thriving young adult community and having a wonderful spiritual director through my parish priest at the time.

Those who know Adam's and my story (and how we met) probably thought the "C" stood for something else....!?

However, I think for anything else to must first focus on God and the rest will flow from there!  He's the river from which all blessings flow!  This song has been on my mind lately and it seems appropriate to share it again here as I know I've shared it through this blog in the past. 

Let go of another "C" word - - control - -  and allow being centered on Christ to take over all parts of your life.  He will provide the graces and peace you need.  St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A dress from three years ago

I just love these two pictures of Charlotte's first Easter photo at 20 days old compared to her fourth Easter today at three years old!! A month after the first Easter photo was taken once I had been cleared for driving again, Mom and I went to a huuuuuuuge consignment sale where we excitedly bought the next four years' worth of Easter dresses for Charlotte Annie. 

Do you see this year's Easter dress (and Charlotte) in the below picture?! :-)

I remember picking out this light purple dress for Charlotte and being soooo excited for her to wear it but feeling as if that time was a long ways in the blink of an eye, she is big enough to wear something that seemed so big next to tiny Charlotte at the time. As I dressed her today, I noticed the small detail of the flower ribbon on the front that also had some light green making her dress a perfect match to the light purple and light green dresses members of our wedding party wore. Her hot pink nails reminded me of our matron of honor's dress and her blue eyes made me recall the bright pops of blue dresses worn by Monika, Mere, and Ash. So, amidst the Easter celebrating today, memories of the happy wedding day filled with bright colorful hues flooded my mind as well.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Wendy Reister Holder, people smiling
Charlotte Annie also wore the same headband today as she did during Easter 2016 (that I had to wrap around her head three times for it to stay on her tiny noggin) & continues to fill our hearts with every possible emotion there is to feel....with the dawn comes rejoicing and as the responsorial psalm today reminded us, "This is the Day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!!!" This was to have been our wedding mass responsorial psalm that didn't happen but instead was the responsorial psalm for Charlotte's Baptism mass! ✝️🐣🐇🌷

Saturday, April 20, 2019

"Jesus has booboos!"

On Good Friday, we found ourselves in the Steyr region of Austria which is in the upper region of the country.  We had learned that this city served as inspiration for Franz Schubert's music (Trout Quintet) so on a whim, we decided to go visit given Adam's affinity for classical music and us ladies wanting to explore another place in Austria!  The Steyr and Enns Rivers flow through this city and meet near the town square under the Lamberg Castle and St. Michael's Church.

While in this city, we wandered into a beautiful church, Marienkirche, shortly after 3pm on Good Friday.  This church, styled in the Baroque fashion, was overseen by Jesuit priests.  Charlotte saw this depiction of Jesus on the cross and said, "Jesus has booboos!" with concern as she pointed to him.

Seeing this scene through her eyes made me realize all over again the pain Jesus faced on the cross for our sins.  He was the last person who should have suffered for our wrongdoings yet he willingly took the cup given to him and offered up his life for our salvation.  Charlotte's worry and concern for Jesus helped me to switch out of tourist mode and to really slow down and truly think about this during the 3pm hour this past Good Friday.

Then, when we went in the church, I had to blink back tears while praying in one of the side chapels when I saw the image of Mary with the sword piercing her heart.  Our Lady of Sorrows is said to represent the seven sorrows based on the prophecy of Simeon.  As I stared up at the image of Mary holding her son with the sword piercing her, it made me think of how powerful a vocation parenting truly is.  Mary did not ask to be given the pain that was dealt her by saying yes to being a mother yet she bore it with grace.  Reflecting on her fiat and all that unfolded during Jesus' life while in the chapel made me realize that I, too, can strive to bear my sorrows with more humility and grace by continuing to turn to Mary as the ultimate example and model of selfless motherhood. 

I'm thankful for this reminder from Charlotte to not look away from the booboos and to willingly seek to bear them with a quiet strength as Mary did. 

Image may contain: 2 people, baby
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us and Jesus is indeed risen!  May the Lord restore all of us and grant healing this Easter!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

PIC ME (part 2)

There is a wedding reception happening a few feet from me.  Literally, there is a wedding reception with all sorts of celebrating going on outside the windows of our apartment.  Have I mentioned that our wall of windows look out at the church door?  We literally share a wall with the church where we are living this semester.  I grew up two blocks from my church in the mountains of Pennsylvania and currently (in Ohio) live a couple blocks from my family's church - we can even see the church from our living room window.  It's extra beautiful at night time when the lights of the church are on and we can see the cross window from the front altar all aglow in the dark.  I miss our church in Ohio but it has been so lovely living here this semester and experiencing church in this way here.

Back to the wedding that was just celebrated today for a special couple.  Charlotte and I stumbled upon a wedding celebration as we walked home with friends from a playdate at the playground within our community.  Little Leo and Charlotte clapped and danced to the music as Hannah, Sha, and I ooo-ed and awww-ed over the bride's dress and the guests' pretty dresses and traditional Austrian clothing.  I was so glad that the weather was so beautiful for the beaming newlyweds and their guests as the sun was shining and it was comfortable enough outside to not wear a light jacket!

Once home, we could hear the music and guests through our open windows as I prepped dinner and baked peanut butter cookies.  Hearing and seeing the celebratory conversations/picture taking took me back to Adam's and my late spring sunny wedding day.....AND reminded me that I owe you part 2 of the PIC ME post!

So, back to the Dating to Marriage Night talk that I gave on the eve of Valentine's Day with some other moms to the college girls......after hearing two glorious proposal stories and grand gestures of romance and love from the moms who spoke before me, it was my turn.  I explained to the girls that I was going to take a bit of a different approach.  I told the room of college students that even though Adam and I are coming up on four years of marriage and we have a soon to be three year old that I can remember so clearly the days of waiting and praying for my future husband.  I shared that instead of talking about how Adam proposed or specific dating stories, I wanted to share advice I had heard when I was the students' shoes but that I would also tie in bits and pieces of our story and share practical ways of living out that advice because that is something I would have appreciated.  I hope that they liked it and perhaps those of you who are reading this and are waiting for your future spouse!

PIC ME is not what you think it is.  It is not, you as a single person, hopping up and down, arms waving in the air shouting, "Over here, over here, pick me!" to a potential significant other.  Instead, shift the focus to God and aim for Him to pick you.  Yet He already has!  He already knows us better than we know ourselves and still loves us flaws and all.  In a way, He is saying to us, "Pick me!" but we often are looking elsewhere or looking to fill the void in other ways rather than seeking Him.  This leads me to the "P".

Pray for your future spouse.  Right here right now.  Pray for the wellbeing of this person.  Even if you are unable to visualize who that person is.  Right now, in praying for this person, you're praying for the interior of the person rather than being caught up in the exterior or the outward appearance.  Pray this person is able to grow as he or she is meant to grow...pray for graces and fortitude to get through whatever the person is going through right now and for him or her to feel peace.  I remember a time when I had said to my friend, Lisa, "If I get married..." and she said, "Stop that right now!"  I remember pausing, startled, at the force with which she said it.  She said, "Each time you say're denying your future husband.  You're doubting he exists and doubting God's plan.  Start saying, 'When you get married...' and start believing in H/him".  So from that point on, I started saying, "When my future husband" or "When I get married" any time the subject came up in conversation.  If this is a desire the Lord has placed on your heart, I believe He will deliver on it.  Along with praying for your future spouse, I share this three part prayer that also came to me from my friend, Lisa:

Now, when I learned it, it had spouse in there.  However, this is the twist I made on it so that I could hang it in my office at work.  ;)

The way I learned the prayer was:

1.)  Draw me closer to my future spouse.
2.)  Repel from me anyone who is not that person.
3.)  Give me eyes to recognize him.

What imagery this prayer evokes even now years after I first heard of it.  Think of how long and often we might tend to stay in dead-end relationships or keep hanging on for a crush in the hopes the person will have a change of heart when it is obvious the person is just "not that into you".  Yet sometimes it is easier to be with someone for the sake of being with someone because we might not want to face the alternative of being alone.  It is hard to turn down a date or decide to be alone because we are made for community and might prefer socializing with others even if we know that we are not into someone or that the relationship is not headed for marriage.  Yet we're greater than this.  We should not waste others' time and they should not waste ours.  Allow the Lord to draw you closer to your future spouse rather than constantly scanning the crowd and wondering if it is this person or that person.  He will draw you to that person.  He will also repel anyone who is not the person for you.  Repel!  That is such a strong word.  I think of bugs flicking off a windshield when I hear that word.  Imagine God has put a protective bubble around you.  He is repelling anyone not worthy of your time and affection and is instead guiding you along the path.  He is working on your heart and your spouse's heart as you both grow.  The third part of the prayer is to ask God to give you eyes to recognize that person when you are in contact with that person.  Sometimes we build up the person in our minds or have a preconceived set of ideas or notion as to what or the person will look like or how he or she will be.  We become so fixated on what we think we want or need that when God brings the person to us, we have blinders on and don't realize the person is there in our midst.  I remember when praying this prayer, wondering if steady friends who were there and were good people might be the individuals God had made for me but I had to keep the faith and trust in the last part of the prayer that sometimes I would forget to pray...for fear that once my eyes were opened that the person would be completely unexpected....well, he was!  I certainly would not have planned on falling in love with someone three time zones away from me.  I'm sure Adam could say the same...he probably was not seeking out a student who had gone back to school after being in the workforce for eight years!  It just goes to show you that you never know what God has in store for you and I'm so thankful that we both kept our eyes open to recognize one another when our paths eventually crossed in October 2013.

The "I" stands for intention.  Be intentional in your dating habits. Don't waste time.  Be authentic and be real with your desires.  Is this relationship something you see lasting long term?  Is this person someone with whom you can build a future?  Jason & Crystalina Evert do a nice job of describing what this intentionality looks like in their book:

This was one of the first books Adam and I read while we were long distance dating.  We would take turns reading and we both really enjoyed the fact that Jason and Crystalina were saying to not date for the sake of dating and to be more intentional with well, your intentions!  However, this book was not the first one I read with Adam. 

After talking for a couple weeks, I took a leap of faith in the early days and ordered for Adam this book through Amazon to be delivered as a surprise.  However, the surprise was on me.  Just before this book arrived on his doorstep, he asked me if we could take some time each week to not talk.  I thought to myself, oh no, here it comes...the I enjoy talking to you but let's take a break speech....but no, instead it was this request:  "Can we read something other than articles together?  Can we read the Bible?"  What?!! 

Ok, so we were on the same wavelength in wanting to continue talking and to read some more together.  However, his book request totally trumped mine that I had sent him as a surprise and arrived a couple days after that surprise conversation.

However, we both highly recommend all couples read this book!!  It gets right to the point and holds nothing back which was refreshing to read and to see that there was a book that had down in black and white some of what we had been discussing or had not vocalized to one another yet.  Adam and I knew pretty early on that we wanted to be intentional with one another especially after the infamous possibilities vs. impossibilities conversation that changed the direction of our relationship courtship. 

Oh, get this, last year, Fr. Morrow, the author of this book, was at my school.  I was at work and who comes walking down the hall but Fr. Morrow?!  I may or may not have gone all fangirl on him.  ;)

So there you have it...the first two letters of the PIC ME acronym when it comes to advice that I shared during the Dating to Marriage event.  Any guesses as to what "C" stood for in my talk?