23 September 2014

3 Things My Parents Taught Me About Love

Today is Ma and Pa's anniversary.  31 years strong.

I know that no marriage is by any means perfect, but the older get I get I see how blessed I was to have the parents I did.  My parental units have been good inspiration for me as I grew up and later got married.  Here are three things my parents have taught me about amore over the years...

1. Say I'm Sorry
I remember growing up seeing the rents fight from time to time, but what always made an impression on me was that I also saw them forgive and apologize to each other.  Forgiveness takes an act of the will, its a choice.  Watching your parents forgive each other is realllyyy good practice for the hands on experience of being married.  Its a powerful witness.

2.  Love is a Sacrifice
Marriage takes selflessness...sacrifice is one of the basic ingredients.  Over the years, my parents made plenty of sacrifices for my siblings and I, and to each other.  I remember once money was really tight and my Dad told me if he had to he would take a second job on the weekend bagging groceries just so he and Mom could afford to send us kids to Catholic schools.  At the time, I was horrified and more concerned what would people think if they saw MY Dad bagging groceries at Kroger's.  Now I look back and am blown away by my Dad's humility and the great sacrifice he was willing to make to send us kids to faith based schools.  Love is selfless and self-sacrificial.  And though I have a LONG way to go in this department, it helps to have good role models to look up too.

3.  Love God more than each other
I have to admit when I was a kid and my Mom told me this I thought she was crazy.and. it made me mad.  "Wait what do you mean God is first, then Dad, AND then us kids?! What the heck are we, chopped liver?!?!"  Talk about child neglect.  But as I have gotten older I can get where Momsy was coming from.  To place your spouse, kids, wealth, etc. above God is out of whack.  Worship alone belongs to God.  When we place other people or things on the throne of our lives, it says those other things/people are most important.  I noticed when we got married I kinda put Jim on this pedestal, and that's a dangerous place to put another fallen human being because we are all going to fall and not measure up from time to time.  Even in the Bible, we are told to first love God above all things AND then love your neighbor as yourself.
I can appreciate this so much more now and am glad I didn't call child protective services on my folks.

Happy 31 years you two!! Here's to the next 31...

19 September 2014

Hair cuts, magical curling irons, & playing on the freeway (7QT)

1.  So last Friday I got my hairs trimmed.  I've had long hair for a long time now, but have been itching to change it up for a bit.  So while I was scared to death, I decided to hack a lot of it off...like 8 inches a lot.
Still getting used to it, but it definitely helps I can still put my hair up and curl it. 
Oh don't mind Pope John Paul II photo bombing in the back ground...

2.  Speaking of curling my hair, I was thrilled beyond belief to get this fancy pants curling machine.  Yes you heard me, machine.

Basically this machine sucks in your hair and spits it all nice and perfectly curled.  It works REALLY good, and for a gal who loves to curl her hair it was worth the $99 (thanks Ma and Pa for the birthday money! :)  You can choose different heat settings to get looser or tighter curls and they hold well throughout the day.
However, the only down side is you have to be VERY careful when sectioning your hair up.  It can easily get stuck in the heated curling chamber.  How do I know this?  Well there have been several times where I have broken out in a sweat screaming for Jim to help me untangle my horse's main from the heated chamber of horror.  Thankfully I have gotten the hang of it and am now able to curl my hair without adult supervision.

3.  Today I was a local Catholic school giving chastity talks to 6-8th grade girls all morning.  Two things about tween girls: First, if you come with candy to encourage participation they will love you for it.  Second, it never ceases to amaze me how open and honest young people get when I say they can ask me anything, because usually that is exactly what happens.
That being said, please pray for young people today.

4.  Over the summer, Jim and I went over to my sis and bro-in-law's place to watch the Hunger Games.  I loved the books and loved the movie even more...everybody was telling me throughout the movie to stop crying and asking questions.  Have I mentioned I am a little in touch with my feelings??
I rented from the library Catching Fire and we're all set to hunker down and watch it this weekend.  That way when the Mockingjay comes out in November we can go see it with the thousands of other fans.

5.  Guess what we're doing on Sunday afternoon?!?
We're going to go play on the freeway.  No for realz.
Since March, one of the main freeways in the Detroit area has been closed for a total and complete over haul.  Its been over 40 years since the freeway first opened and on Sunday from 2-4pm the city officials are opening it up for families to walk, bicycle, and play on the freeway to celebrate the re-opening in a few weeks.
Jim and I are thinking of bringing a Frisbee to toss around...why not? 

6.  I am so excited for our kick-off youth group meeting this Sunday.  The teens made an awesome video introducing the adult and youth leadership team which features the Harlem Shake in church.  Not gonna lie, kinda stoked.

7.  Paying off debt and budgeting is going pretty well.  We just paid off our first debt this paycheck!!! 1 down and 3 more to go!!!  Next one the list is paying off Jim's credit card, then my car, and my student loans.  Who knew saving money and being responsible could be so fun?!

16 September 2014

Loving Mary leads to loving Jesus

I am so excited to have my lovely friend Susana posting here today!!  She is one busy Momma with 2 little boys (+ 1 baby girl on the way!), works in ministry, throws a mean party, and is the crafting queen.  Go show her some love, where she is serving up a beautifully crazy, caffeinated life...you'll leave her lovely place on the inter-webs feeling inspired and refreshed:)
Today Susana is reflecting on her devotion to the Rosary and how her love of Mary leads to loving Jesus...take it away, lady!!

I remember the first time my family sat down to pray a rosary. We gathered at the kitchen table, my mom lit candles, turned off some of the lights and passed out these ropes with beads on them. I was around six at the time and had no idea what was going on. However, I was content because mom gave me a notebook to draw in while we prayed. After about 10 minutes I realized that I liked the rosary. It was calming, peaceful and it just felt….right.

Fast forward about 10 years.

My mom is pregnant with child number six, she sits on the couch, puts her feet up, and starts the usual evening call for the family rosary. Instead of being in awe and wonder like I was ten years earlier, I’m dragging my feet. I’m making a big deal about how it was already 9:00 at night. I had to get up early the next morning for swim practice so why should I have to stay up another 40 minutes (saying the rosary can take a while in a big family) just because we couldn’t sit down to do it sooner?

I begged my parents for us to just say Night Prayer instead of a full rosary. They said no. I suggested a chaplet. They said no. We were going to say a family rosary and that was that. But I wasn’t done. I turned up the volume on my angsty teen switchboard and began to make the whole family miserable with my attitude. Finally my mom had had enough. She sent me to bed and told me to think about my priorities. Victory was mine! I could finally go to sleep and be well rested for swim practice….or so I thought.

As I tried to fall asleep, all I could focus on was the gentle sound of my family's prayers. Suddenly I was wide awake. There was no going to sleep, not as long as my family was still praying. Sadness filled my heart as I realized that I needed to be out there with them. Too prideful to admit defeat, I pulled a rosary out of my desk drawer and finished the rosary with my family from the walls of my room. It wasn’t until we had finished that I was able to find rest.

I learned a lot that night. I learned a lot about my faith life and the things that I was putting ahead of it. There is no doubt that life can get crazy and priorities can be easily out of order. However, ever since I was a child, I have found that the rosary will put me back on track. I have always enjoyed praying the rosary and asking our Blessed Mother for her intercession. My love for this form of prayer has only grown in my adult life. In high school, the rosary became a way for me to enter into true discernment of where God wanted me for college.

Then when I was in college, it helped me focus on my goals and strengths, all the while reminding me that I am only an instrument and that it is through God that I accomplish things. It reminded me to say “yes” just like Mary did so long ago. There were a lot of trials and challenges that I faced in college but the rosary was always there to help guide me towards God’s Will for me...even if I wasn’t thrilled with the result. The rosary helped me find my now husband and one of my favorite things is when he and I say it together with our little boys.

I love that the Catholic Church has such a rich and beautiful prayer that centers me and guides me in my day-to-day life. Even in my parenting I can tell the days that we didn’t say the rosary from the ones where we did. The boys are better behaved and I’m a gentler parent. We laugh and smile more, too. At the end of the day when my house is a disaster, I don’t panic because we said the rosary and that’s more important.

Many Catholic families that I’ve spoken with explain that there just isn’t time for a whole rosary during their day. They mention that it would be impossible to get everyone to sit down and pray. But impossible things are Mary’s business and with her intercession you can expect miracles. Give her the opportunity to come into your family life and help guide you closer to her Son.

All you have to do is try. Our Lady will take care of the rest…

12 September 2014

7QT on birthdays, kidney transplants, and the Pope coming to Detroit!?!

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

 1.  Last Saturday, Jim and I went on a date.  We went out to eat and then I was surprised to find out we were going roller skating.  Remember those awkward junior high roller skating parties? Yup me too, only this time I had someone to skate with during the slow skate.

It was a lot of fun, except the part where I totally wiped out on my butt from just standing still.  The later we stayed, the more raunchy the music and tweens skating got...but before we left Jim surprised me with cake and ice cream for my birthday on Tuesday.  Apparently he had to sweet talk to the manager to bring in all his supplies and prove we weren't going to smear cake all over the walls like the last party that came in.

2.  September 9th I turned 29.  I am excited to see what the year unfolds; looking forward to finishing my thesis, graduating, continue paying off debt, and start training for a 10K.
Next year when I turn 30, I will celebrate my new digits by getting a tat and running the Detroit half marathon.

3.  On Tuesday, we kicked off our weekly staff meetings at church again.  Not the most thrilling thing in the world, but before we started this week our pastor shared some AMAZING news with us all!!
Our associate priest (Fr. Beto) who has been waiting several years for a kidney transplant got a call from the hospital that they had one!  The surgery happened yesterday and went really well!  He received a kidney transplant several years ago but his body rejected it after almost two years!
It was so cool to hear on my birthday the exciting news that a perfect match was found!
Please keep Fr. Beto in your prayers as he recovers, and especially for his health and that his body doesn't reject the transplant.

4.  As if Fr. Beto's wonderful news wasn't enough, the folks at work surprised me with cake, singing, and pink jeweled tiara...I like pretty sparkly things so it works out well.  The only bummer is I had an evening class so I didn't get to see Jim until later, but a friend of mine took care of that and we out for tasty BBQ.

5.  Okay. This.is.way.cool.
So a letter writing campaign from students at Catholic schools in Detroit has begun to get Pope Francis to come to Detroit when he comes to Philadelphia next Fall.  Even cooler, the mayor of Detroit and the Archbishop are now behind it too....oh and did I mention they have a Facebook page too?!?  #socialmediaatitsfinest

6.  On my birthday I was on the phone with my Dad asking a question related to something church-y stuff.  We said goodbye and hung but then I realized Dad might have did forget my birthday.  I figured he was being a goof ball, which later was confirmed.  Apparently its a trend now for Dad's to do that? Anyways its fun to ease and joke with him about it...thanks padre, love you too! :)

7.  Fall is gearing up....youth ministry starts next weekend.  Grad school classes have begun and I have to write my thesis by December.  Retreats, talks, parent meetings...this time of year seems to officially kick off wonderful, crazy of my job.  Hoping I can balance work with school especially as I plan to graduate in the spring.

Happy Friday!! :)

08 September 2014

The Suffering Question.

The first time I went to Europe came about when my essay was chosen to receive a mostly paid pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.  $800 out of my pocket was all it took for me to embark on a once in a lifetime pilgrimage experience.

Since then I have always looked back with such fond memories of those seven peaceful days in Assisi.  It was the first time I experienced liturgy in another culture/language; sure I don't speak any Italian but the signs and symbols of my faith go past any language differences and it was awesome to experience that.  I remember going to the chapel where the original San Damiano crucifix still hangs; where St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him, "Francis, Go rebuild my Church!".  As I left the chapel on a cold December night I could hear in the darkness the friars chanting their evening Vespers...so peaceful. so beautiful.  I loved hearing the tolling bells every night from St. Clare's basilica calling the cloistered nuns to prayer.

It was in Assisi I started to learn what it meant to be quiet and still with God; that God speaks with a still, small voice to the depths of our heart.  I started to realize what it means to live a life completely for Jesus Christ...not in some mean, Bible-thumping way but in a loving, radical way, similar to the life of St. Francis of Assisi. 

While I was in Assisi I remember seeing an image of Jesus crucified with St. Francis; but it was one I had never seen before back at home.  Until a few weeks ago, I have truly never thought about that image since my time in Assisi almost seven years ago.

About a month ago during my morning prayer, I was sitting in the living room with my eyes closed going over some stuff with God.  And I was surprised when this image came into my mind, for I haven't ever thought about since I was in Assisi.

I decided to not ignore this, and go with it...okay Holy Spirit, where is this ride taking me?  I started thinking and asking God why out of nowhere would this image just pop into my mind.
It is truly a unique image.  Not because it is of Jesus crucified but because Jesus is literally coming off the cross to embrace Francis.  The more I sat with this, the more I sensed God's timing in revealing this to my heart.  This embrace of Jesus and Francis illustrated two important lessons in relation to suffering for me personally.

First, Jesus is inviting Francis into His Passion and death.  For Francis this was a very real thing, to the point he bore the wounds of Christ on his actual body (the Stigmata).  Jesus suffered so much in suffering and death, but in our own sufferings and trials in life; perhaps just maybe it is a way to us to experience just a sliver of what He endured.  The way Jesus reaches down to embrace Francis is an intimate way for Jesus to allow Francis to experience what Jesus endured.  

And second, this embrace is also an action of crazy, passionate, reckless love.  This image strongly conveys a sense of love: how much Francis loves Christ, but also, how MUCH Christ loves Francis in a personal way.  I began to imagine myself in place of Francis; that in a way Jesus is drawing me into His Passion through a variety of ways in my own life.  Even in suffering, there is great love.  Somehow even in great trials and suffering, God is there and present with us.  I know it sounds crazzyy but even during dark times in my own life I know that even in the pits I am never alone.  And even though it doesn't take away the pain, somehow to know my God gets/understands my suffering makes it just a smidge easier to bear.

God doesn't allow suffering because He is mean or vindictive.  It was never part of the original plan to begin with.  Suffering exists because sin exists.  The only place where suffering and sin are extinct is Heaven.  Even though I'm almost done with grad school, no master's degree is ever going to make sense of 'the suffering question'. 

I find a lot of comfort and peace in looking at this image.  It in no way is an answer to the suffering question in the world or our personal lives; however, it makes me feel less alone.less scared.gives me hope.  But ultimately, no matter how awful,dark my Good Friday is there will always, always be an Easter Sunday to come.

Don't argue about pickles

Of all things to fight about on a Friday night with my husband...pickles.  Really!?

A few weeks ago our good friend was spending the weekend with us.  Jim and I got home late and realized that at 10p it would probably be a good idea to get some dinner going.  It usually helps to cook good meal when there's more than cheese and lemon juice in the fridge.

Since I didn't feel like consuming a meal of lemon juice, I busted out the can opener and tuna fish.  I was in the middle of draining and mixing up the tuna and realized I could use an extra hand slicing up the pickles to throw in the tuna.  Jim didn't seem thrilled that his guitar playing was interrupted with my request to slice pickles.  And like a loving, attentive wife how did I handle that?
Well I continued to nag.  And nag.  He continued to not like that.

The next thing I know we're yelling (yes yelling) over who would slice the pickles.  Of course because we are such a classy couple we decided to carry on about the pickle drama to the point of potentially making our lovely house guest feel like an awkward bear. #worsthostsever

The next morning our wise sage of a friend called out our crazy making for what it was...which was pretty cray cray.  In the end, we resolved the great pickle crisis of 2014 with a peace treaty and handshakes all around.

All in all, fighting over pickles really isn't that big a deal in the scheme of things.  And the fact it was almost the Cuban Missile Crisis over pickles is something to laugh about now.  Whatever that stupid stuff is you fight about with your spouse late on Friday night, its really not about that.  
Good thing I have the maturity of Lucy Ricardo to not let the petty fights in marriage get to me...well I've still got room to improve.

May your fights be fair and not about pickles!

04 September 2014

Blessed you will be...

...when you read Blessed is She.

There is something awesome happening and quite frankly it will rock your socks off.  The inter-webs are abuzz lately about a new devotional site for women that seeks to draw all deeper into Scripture.  Born in the desire and prayers of Jenna, this online devotional is quickly becoming a community and growing into a movement to help women get into the Word of God with relevant application to daily life.  I am crazy excited to be a part of this team of lovely ladies helping to write the devotional; already it feels like we're becoming a community together in this effort.  Bring.it.Holy Spirit.

So how exactly does this work?  Well, every day you receive an e-mail with the Mass readings along with a short , relevant reflection written by women in a variety stages of life and vocations.
I don't know about you, but some days many days I fail to get my daily dose of the Word of God.  Before I know it, I am choking down some cereal and pulling out of the driveway before it dawns on me I failed to prioritize time with God to start my day.  Argh.

One of the great things about Blessed is She is the easy access and relevance of the devotionals.
I cannot think of a better way to start a day at the office when I am checking my e-mail!!

To sign up, head over to Blessed is She and your e-mail address to subscribe.  You get an official e-mail that directs you to confirm your subscription.  Its as easy as that.  I know right!?

Part of the beauty of this ministry, is that is really becoming a place for women to support and encourage each other...to pray for and with each other...to build each other up in love.  Aren't those things more of what we want to in the world?!
The daily devotional is great, but if you're looking for extra community and encouragement feel free to follow Blessed is She on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

I highly, highly encourage you to share this wonderful ministry with other special women in your life...sisters, cousins, aunts, friends, nieces, etc.  I am even going to share this with our teen women's ministry program at church!

So go subscribe...tap into this beautiful community of sisters in Christ...
And may you be greatly blessed!!

09 10