29 September 2015

#PopeinPhilly: How Francis is Messing Me Up

Whew. I made it back home from Philly early yesterday morning. I am happy to say no pilgrims were lost along the way and was so happy to be near and receive a blessing from Papa Francesco.

We loaded up Thursday evening and drove through the night. On Friday morning we hit the ground running: gourmet Philly cheese steak sandwiches for breakfast, see the Liberty Bell, and then attend a talk by Gianna Emanuela Molla on the life/witness of her mother. Saturday was full of long lines, more radio interviews, LOTS of people, and waiting seven hours to get a glimpse and receive a blessing from the Holy Father. It was SO worth the wait. Sunday was Mass with Pope Francis, another papal parade, and the zombie apocalypse exodus out of the city to get back to the bus. Not even kidding when I say for second I felt like I was in The Walking Dead.
Amid the exhaustion and excitement for being able to attend #PopeinPhilly, I find myself thinking more and more how the witness and style of Pope Francis is changing me as a Catholic Christian from the inside out. There is something so fascinating and unique about him, that all people (believers or not) are drawn to. Heck on our bus to Philadelphia, we had both a Jewish and woman with no faith or religion join our bus trip all because they see God in him and just feel drawn to him. #verycool
This past week, was one of excitement in the United States for the Catholic Church. But I think its also a time of hopeful anticipation and expectant faith for Catholics. It is a chance for all our us to be deeply challenged and stretched like rubber bands as a result of this tangible witness to God's fatherly love visiting our country. And from my own journey to Philadelphia, I am realizing how much his witness is messing my faith up in big ways.

1. Humility
During the flight back to Rome, Francis once again spoke to journalists on a wide array of many issues. One that caught my eye was when a reporter asked him is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star; referring to how in the last week he has become a star to many. His response? "Do you know what the title was of the Pope that ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It's a little different from the stars, which are beautiful to look at. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being the servant of the servants of God is something that doesn't pass."

Quite often in my own life, I'm not sure it's God I want to do exceptional things for, but for me. I want to do exceptional things for myself, for my name's sake, for my own reputation and exaltation. But calling myself a Christian, means I am striving to take the humble path...the path of getting my hands and heart messy with serving others. More and more I find myself seeing in life where I need to knocked down from pride to grow more in humility.

2. Care less what others think of me
Had Pope Francis read the book Boundaries?? While I think it is unlikely, I am constantly inspired how the Pope handles those who constantly criticize him being to leftist or to conservative or not speaking enough to this particular issue, etc. He just doesn't freaking care what others think of him, only God's opinion matters. And I love that.

Recently on his flight leaving Cuba, the Holy Father was asked if he is even a Catholic/is the Pope a leftist. His response: "I am certain I have never said anything more that is in the social doctrine of the Church. I follow the church and this way I do not think I am wrong. Maybe I have given the impression of being a little bit to the left.
And if necessary, I'll recite the creed. I am available to do that." BOOM.
Doesn't sound like this pontiff needs to read Boundaries as much I as do ;)

3. Growing awareness of issues outside of #firstworldproblems
Ever since I have seen this hash tag, I've always hated it. It is like it reveals a deep ignorance and self-centeredness so prevalent in American culture. And I'll admit I am one of those Americans.

For a good portion of my life, I prided myself on being the best damn rule follower. Rules of my parents or my faith, I thought I was a good person because of those things. And then I realized how little love I had in my actions and attitudes to others. Having a Pope from a part of the world that has seen much suffering, evil, and pain of people has begun to open my eyes to the larger, bigger world outside of our borders. I am pretty embarrassed to admit that for many years I thought concern of social issues such clean water, the environment, world hunger crisis, etc. were issues the liberals took care of. I cringe now looking back at that ignorance and have had my eyes opened that I claim to be a Christian it should concern and upset me when those around the world go without and are mis-treated.
Reading his newest encyclical, I am yet again humbled and reminded that issues of social justice are not just for a particular party...but for all believers and people of good will to care about and become aware on.

"Let us remember the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' (Matthew 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treats others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others grow, as we would like to helped ourselves...The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us."  --Pope Francis address to Congress

4. Holiness is not about rules but little gestures of love
Like I said before, for a long time I prided myself on being the best damn rule follower. The older I get and the more I read what the Holy Father says, the more I am reminded that the way of love, compassion, understanding, and dialogue are truly the ways to live the joy of the Gospel.

"Faith opens a window to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. 'Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name-a small gesture-will not go unrewarded', says Jesus (Mk 9:41). These little gestures we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different.. They are little signs of tenderness. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day's work. Love is shown by little things, attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. Jesus asks us to not hold back these little miracles. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as sign of his own living and active presence in our world."  --Pope Francis homily at closing Mass

How we love God and each other through little actions and gestures are the true makings of a saint.

After World Youth Day in Brazil, Francis spoke of going out into the world and making a mess as a people of faith. Who knew how much of my heart and soul was such a mess on the inside. One of the things I love most about our Holy Father is that he challenges all of us, and he isn't calling us to anything he himself does not strive to live in his own life. 
The spiritual life is one of self-reflection and openness to the hard parts of ourselves that need to become more like Jesus. And deep down, I am being woken up from spiritual amnesia to a more fuller life of really living the joy of the Gospel.

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23 September 2015

BBQ Chicken Chili

Fall is hands down my most favorite season. Warm scarves. Leaves crunching under my boots. And the food. Fall food is a special, unique category all unto itself. And homemade chili is one of those tasty fall meals...especially if you have some venison. Nothing like a hunk of deer meat in your chili ;-) #daughterofahunter

Last week I was looking for a new chili recipe to kick off fall with. Knowing Jim's deep love for all things BBQ, I knew I couldn't pass this one up from Skinnytatse.

The recipe calls for cooking over the stove top, but I was itching to use the crock pot. Still tasty...added cayenne pepper for an extra kick too

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of onion diced 
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 oz. boneless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups canned cannellini beans
1 1/2 cups canned kidney beans
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 container of Stubb's original BBQ sauce
cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro for topping

1// Pour olive oil in bottom of crock pot

2// Add all ingredients minus cheddar cheese and cilantro

3// Cook on High for 6-7 hours

4// Ladle chili into bowls and top with cheddar cheese and cilantro.

Needless to say it's pretty tasty ;)

Any new recipes you're trying out this Fall? What is your favorite fall food or recipe to make at home?
Happy eating, friends!

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21 September 2015

Not going to see the Pope?? Come to Philly with Me!!

One of the highlights of my job are trips and pilgrimage opportunities that come along with the territory from time to time. 

Months ago, our pastor more or less drafted me to oversee leading a group from our parish to head to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and Papal Mass. So with the help of our faithful travel agency, this Thursday evening I'm off to Philly with a group of 37 adults. 

Our group will drive through the night on Thursday and arrive in the city on Friday morning. Two nights in a hotel, Mass with other groups from the Detroit diocese, and a private talk/audience with St. Gianna Molla's daughter (yup the one she gave her life or!). Kinda stoked for that. 
Oh and also finding out where Jim Gaffigan will be doing stand-up comedy for the Pope. And Mark Wahlberg. And Aretha Franklin.

Saturday is the Festival of Families with lots of great speakers, musicians, and activities for families. Hoping to see Pope Francis drive by when he come to visit the workers and pilgrims that night because the next day for Mass, it sounds like we'll be camping out at a screen. Things bound to get crowded with 2 million people.

For those of you unable to join us in Philly, you'll be sorely missed! I'll be tweeting and gramming through our trip. And I hear Jenny is going to be attending and blogging through it all as well...with a newborn. God bless her. Also my sister who works for our Archdiocesan media office will be sharing away on all things social media.

You can follow along on social media with some of the following hashtags: #popeinus #LoveisMIMission #PopeinPhilly. Also download the World Meeting of Families App to your smart phone which will keep you in the know of all the happenings in Philly!!

Of course pray for the Holy Father's as travels...if you can throw one up for our and all pilgrim groups traveling too I'd much appreciate it:) That we are all patient, kind, no pushing, and no spot stealing.

There is much work and healing that the Church needs to become a part of to help support Catholic families in our ever changing culture. I pray this visit of Pope Francis' inspires lay people, bishops, and seminary's. I pray the vibrant witness and words of Francis draw back many fallen away or lapsed Catholics.

Many, many years ago Jesus spoke to St. Francis of Assisi (whom the Pope is named after): "Francis, go rebuild my church!" May these words resonate deeply in the hearts of all who will attend or follow this historic event.

The family is the domestic church...so if we work to rebuild the Church it must always start first with the family.
See you in Philly!! :)

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15 September 2015

Natural, Homemade Dishwasher Detergent...

A few weeks ago Jim and I got our first essential oil diffuser. To say we like it is a complete understatement. We are mildly obsessed with it. 

Over the last few months, I have been slowly growing in my skills in trying to make more homemade and natural products for our home. My most recent natural living experiment was making laundry detergent, which went interesting? Yeah let's go with that.

Since that mis-hap, I have been wanting to take a crack at making dishwasher detergent. I am quite pleased to say this went much better than grating endless bars of Fels-Naphtha soap.

So when I found a recipe from this book for dishwasher detergent, I knew I wanted to try it out!!

Like I said, cheap and only 4 ingredients. Can't be too hard right?

2 cups of Borax
2 cups of Baking soda
1/2 cup of white vinegar
20 drops of lemon essential oil
ice cube tray (not pictured)

1// Mix together the Borax and baking soda. Easy enough.

2// Slowly add the white vinegar to dry mixture. Mix well.

3// Add the 20 drops of essential oil. (Side-note: lemon oil not only smells great, but has amazing cleaning properties in it!)

4// Mix well again to spread around the oil.

5// Carefully spoon with a tablespoon measuring cup the mixture in slots of the ice cube tray. Pack it in tightly, but do not fill to the top of the tray. Keep tapping each slot until the mixture feels secure

The directions call for letting the mixture stay in the mold overnight or to dry out in the sun. I also threw the tray in the freezer to help keep the form even more. 

Then, just store in sealed Tupperware. One batch has a shelf life of 2 months.

Total cost?? 

1 box Borax-$3.97 at Kroger
1 box baking soda-.99 at Aldi
1 bottle of vinegar-$1.79 at Aldi

Not a bad deal at $6.75!!!

Are any of you into making homemade, natural products for your family? 
What are your favorite go-to items?

Happy dish washing!
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09 September 2015

A New Decade.

Today I enter a new decade of life and embrace some new digits. Why hello 30.

Over the weekend, we gathered at the parental units residence for some festivities with my favorites. Oh and my sister took photo's on our brother's broken motorcycle.

This morning when I got to work, waiting in the office was a box of flowers from the husband. Birthday's are and have always been fun to celebrate growing, but really it is another day like all the rest. As I say goodbye to my 20's and hello to the 30's, today is more day to look at where I've been and where I am going in life.

I think I would say my 20's were the greatest, most intense period of learning, humility, self-discovery, and growth. I learned a freaking ton about myself, not to mention relationships in general. I had to mature in many ways and allow myself to be teachable by those wiser than me...sometimes not always done with the best attitude. 

Life is a story, you're always turning new pages. Stories are full of all kinds of twists, turns, and surprises. Sometimes it can feel like a mystery to solved or cheesy romance novel. But at the end of life, its not so much about what was accomplished, but on how you allowed to story of your life to change and transform you into a better version of yourself. And how the story of  your life served other people and made a difference in the world.

I recently finished reading this book. The words below of the author really struck me:

The story of life continues to unfold and develop. And I'm excited to see what this next decade of life holds for me...

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02 September 2015

10 Lessons I learned in my 20's

A week from today I'll be saying farewell to my 20's and hello to a new decade. 

My 20's were a time of being humbled, stretched like a rubber band, and learning A LOT about myself. It is so funny to look back and think 10 years ago how I was so certain about everything, and now I am seeing how much I really don't know and still have to learn.

So here's an ode to the roaring 20's...and thinking about the greatest lessons from those years in life.

1. Self-care is not selfish, but a necessity
Making time for yourself is not selfish or even a luxury but its a necessity, with or without kids at home. I have often gotten caught up in doing lots for others at the expense of not making time for me and starting to burn out. Read books, paint your nails, sit outside with a smoothie, take a nap, etc. If I don't take care of me, I'll be cranky and burn out. Nobody got time for that. So treat yo self...everyday!

2. I'm not always right
This can often be one of the most humbling lessons. I'm not always right in how I speak, treat others, or talk about my faith. To be honest and accountable with myself can feel uncomfortable, but in the end it can teach me some pretty big life lessons.

3. Don't look for a man to fulfill or "complete" you
This is one I learned the hard way but oh what a good lesson! If I look back at at my 20's, I see very often I wasted so much time worrying about meeting the right guy or when I'd get married. This crazy making behavior led me to make my husband an idol and really see a relationship as a way to fulfill and fix all that was lacking in my life. I was wrong on so many levels.
I promise you no man will EVER complete you.

4. Exercise is just as important as a strong spiritual life
For the longest time, I used to value the spiritual life over taking care of my body. Now, I see the importance of both and the need for strong relationships with both. I have NEVER been an exercise person, but I'm so proud of what 

I'm learning through running and working on my relationship with food. Its only a little over a month till run my first half marathon, who knew I always had it in me? :)
Used to be like this...

Now I be like this...

5. Don't take out loans to go to Europe
Yup you read that right. I have made MANY mistakes with money along the way. Thankfully no we are starting to get our act together. But for real. Don't ever take out loans to go to Europe. EVER. Always a bad idea.

6. Life is more than retweets or likes on Instagram
Very true, but hard to live out at times. I amazed how easily I can get wrapped up in the frenzy of wanting just a few minutes to "scroll" and scope out what's going on in social media. I don't want to spend my life hiding behind the perfect picture or looking for validation, but I want my life to be rich with meaning, purpose, and living intentionally.

7. Learn to be okay with yourself & being alone
This is kinda related to #3. I used to think I was comfortable being by myself and confidant in that. My Mom always told my sister and I growing up that we need to comfortable being alone before getting into a relationship. If you don't you can start to live for the other person, thinking you "need" them to complete or make you a better person. False.

8. Boundaries.
Oh sweet baby Jesus. This one x 10! Boundaries with everybody, including myself. It helps me deal with the crazy, difficult people as well as speak my own truth and be honest. Read the book. Life with boundaries is a magically, wonderful thing. Honest.

9. Ditch the unhealthy friendships...nurture the life-giving ones
I never would have thought making friends as I got older would be so difficult at times...or maybe I should say making genuine, meaningful friendships. From having to end a friendship with a long-time friend to leaving my small group at church, I have been surprised that my 20's didn't come with a book "Healthy Friendships 101." 

And while that has been difficult over the years, I have more recently been blessed with very dear women in my life as well as the Blessed Is She community. I have been learning what are the real ingredients for genuine sisterhood and lasting friendships. And though those lessons came with difficulty at times, I am really grateful for all the messy and beautiful that came with it.

10. Don't live for others approval or needing them to like you
I have often identified as a people pleaser. I like to be liked and I don't want to rock the boat.
I have struggled with getting my panites in a bunch when some people don't like me or don't understand me. Newsflash. The only person I can change is myself (thank you therapy). If I am living for others to like me or approve of what I do, that's a quick way to unfulfilled and unhappy life.
Stop caring what others think about you, and find more peace and self-confidence along the way.

What are some of the greatest lessons life has taught you so far? What have been the most difficult?

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