24 August 2013

The 'Skinny-ish vs. Fat-ish' Wars

I can still remember like it was yesterday.  The first day I thought I was fat. 

I was probably 10/11 years old and it was summer time.  My best friends at the time (who were twin sisters) and I were riding our bikes to end of my street.  I have this distinct memory of looking at my legs in shorts and then at Sarah/Theresa's legs in shorts and not liking what I saw when I looked at myself.  When I didn't like what I saw, I equated what I saw in me as bad, ugly, fat, etc.  It is a distinct memory I have shared with therapists over the years on how the majority of my life I have not liked what I see in the mirror when I look at myself;  I have judged myself to the world's standards of beauty and have spent much of my life looking in disgust at my body, constantly wishing I could be "skinny-ish" instead of "fat-ish".

Over the last month or so, I have seen a lot posts in the blog-o-sphere related to these types of issues.  One thing I really enjoy about blogging is the real, heartfelt honesty of so many of the gals I follow...all of us have a story, and I think one the deepest desires of the human heart (after knowing God and truth) is to be understood by others in the context of genuine relationships. 

We are created/made for relationships, I mean why do babies not emotionally thrive when they are not nurtured as infants?  Because in the depths of our soul, we crave.thrive.desperately need. relationships!  And so today I share something deep on my heart...

So that summer day in my childhood has left a mark on me on how I see/value myself in the world.
I grew up watching and hearing my Mom look at her own body in disgust and complain and self-loathe in the mirror (No, I'm not blaming my Mom, but those experiences leave a lasting mark on a little girl).  As I became a teenager, the junior high years were rough for me.  Looking back I was never very overweight.  I went through chubby stages, but I would constantly compare myself to other girl's my age. 

In junior high my Mom could sense my frustration with my body, she started having me stand in front of the mirror after I brushed my teeth at night and helping me practice saying nice things to myself to help kill my negative self-talk.  When I knew girl's my age wearing bikini's, I decided one time while at Target myself to just try one on and see how it looked.  After seeing how I looked, I broke down in the dressing room and came home and cried about some more.  I hated how I looked in shorts.  I freaked the freak out if I was trying on a sleeveless top/dress for fear of my jiggly jello arms.  My stomach looked like a deflated balloon.  

Over the years, I have done quite well with different diets.  I thrive on routine and structure and became quite good at expecting the utmost perfection with my body; however, when my idealistic expectations are shattered because the number on the scale is too high for my comfort zone, my world comes crashing down and I flip on the inside.  When I did the Atkins diet, I was down to my lowest weigh ever, 145 pounds.  For a taller girl at 5'8, my parents started getting worried about my excessive dieting habits, and told me I could no longer do that.  I was devastated.  I had no sense of balance and self-medicated those awful feelings with food.  When I got my first job at Panera, the weigh piled back on as I sought "comfort" in the left overs from the bakery as I came home from a shift.

My highest weight, was at 195 in the beginning of college and I started doing Weight Watchers.  I have kept off a good portion of that for a long time; even though I'm still not at at weight I'm really comfortable with.  I still to this day struggle with food.  This week, I gained weight.  After a disappointing weigh in, I went and tried to drown my sorrow and frustration with a chocolate milk shake.  Knowing I need to fuel my body with good, healthy choices vs. emotionally eating to satisfy a need within me I think I cannot fix without eating it away.

To this day I still have a love/hate relationship with my body, even with striving to live a Weight Watcher lifestyle (which is pretty healthy and safe).  I still feel HIGHLY uncomfortable bearing my arms in a sleeveless dress/shirt.  I already worry about what will happen to my body when my husband and I have children someday; what that will do to my already shaky impression of how I view myself.  Will a new postpartum body send me off into a black hole of feeling even worse?? I still struggle with emotional eating and feel I'm constantly on a see-saw going back and forth how I feel in my own skin.

I heard some statistic recently that more people in the US would rather shave 10 years off there life earlier just so they could be at the exact ideal weight they have wanted their whole life?  What does that message send to us??  What kind of message are we sending to young girl's learning to feel comfortable in their own skin or young men on how they treat the women in their lives??  There is an emotional, spiritual epidemic in our culture that robs peace/joy of many men and women who struggle with the desire to be more "skinny-ish" vs. "fat-ish."  And I am one of those women.  Recovering? Yes.  But very, very slowly with many mis-steps along the way...

BUT...amazingly enough, over the past 6 months or so, I have had this strong sense, that I REALLY have to do some serious work in this area of my life.  I have sensed just in the little day to day things in my life, and most especially in my spiritual life as I talk to my spiritual director.  I have been battling the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars for a long time, but I ain't giving up!!  I'm going to keep working, learning, and allowing myself permission to NOT be perfect...in how I think I should be or how the world tells me I should be.  I want to be an emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy woman...I want to be healthy in all those ways for ME.  I want take tack back the territory in my heart/soul that I have believed for too freaking long in my life, the lies that I have let cloud my vision who I really am.

Maybe you're in the midst of your own version of the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars, but lets work together as women to help support. encourage. nurture each other to embrace our bodies.  Together let's work to put a greater emphasis on living a life a virtue, being a good wife/mom/student, etc. over what size we were or what we look like.

 I am leaving you with something I have recently discovered that have helped me check myself as I work on my own "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars in my life....may this speak to your heart, mind, and soul as well :)

                                                Watch with a box of Kleenex. FOR. REALZ.

So go out there you beautifully, bodacious woman...and beat the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars in your life :)

22 August 2013

Friday Quick Takes {vol. 17}

There are many times since getting married that I feel like this towards Jim as we go to bed...
 Yes, he snores.  It wouldn't drive so batty if I wasn't such a light sleeper.  And if I couldn't hear him with my ear plugs in, plus two fans going in the bedroom.  At least several times a week I am awoken by this sleeping bear, and when I am woken up by his "music" I typically kick him under the covers or shake him and say to cut it out.  This week, Jim ordered a mouth guard to sleep in to prevent him from snoring.  He has been using it for a week, and I haven't had any problems with noise pollution since he got it.  Thank. you. Jesus.  Jim even noticed that he feels better rested in the morning when he gets up too, so he must be sleeping better too.

Here's to hoping noisy nights of sleep are gone for good!!!
So far, so good:)

Sleeping snoring elephant

Monday night I hosted our women's small group meeting.  I'm really starting to feel comfortable with them and feel like we are becoming a little community together.  This next couple of weeks we trying something new.  Each of us is paired up with another gal to send each other little text reminders each day to remind each other to pray daily and just encourage each other through the weeks till we meet again.  I really like this because 1.the ol' prayer life needs a little pick-me-up and 2. it helps me get to know another gal in small group better too.  So far it has been going really well...and come on who doesn't need encouragement throughout the week!?!?

Jim and I are going to be godparents together!!  Last weekend we had a young married couple over whose first baby is due any day.  A few years ago, I helped lead the husband "Sam" through the RCIA process as a teen and was his sponsor for Confirmation.  Since then he married a woman "Sara" who is also a convert to Catholicism.  They both come from non-Catholic families but very much want to raise their little daughter in the Catholic faith.  Being that Jim and I are the only Catholics they know, they asked us to be the godparents for their daughter Eliana.
We're both so humbled and honored and are very much looking forward to being a support network to this young family and helping the parents do all we can to help raise Eliana in the Catholic faith.

Wednesday was just an all around rough day for both of us.  Jim is anxious and on edge waiting to hear back from some job leads and I just had a not so hot day at the office.  When I came home, Jim had surprised me by scrubbing the kitchen floor...it meant so much to me that I burst out into tears; just so appreciative of him going out his way to do that even though he didn't feel like it.
It ended up being a good night with some quiet prayer time, Middle Eastern leftovers, and curling up in bed watching one of my favorite old movies together, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House."

It is crazy to think in just two weeks grad school classes start up again, and later in the month another year of youth ministry begins.  It feels like summer just flew by for me!  At the beginning if the summer, I had all of these grand expectations of things I wanted to do and prep for the upcoming youth ministry year; however between leadership training, a youth conference, prepping for WYD, and going to WYD, I just don't feel as rested or as prepared to start another year.  I'm totally excited and looking forward to it, but also wish I had more time to rest up and work on a couple more things.

For not being such a crafty gal, I have surprisingly been able to accomplish some pretty easy craft projects over these summer months.  If you're looking for some fun, simple things to try at home check out some the projects I've tried out here

I'm really excited to meet another blogger friend in real life this coming Monday.  I'm gonna grab some lunch with Jenna from Call Her Happy.  She is definitely one of my daily favorites to read; and I'm looking forward to getting to meet another Michigan blogger!! 
See you Monday girl! :)

On that note...


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

12 August 2013

Top 10 list of World Youth Day 2013

Yes I know I am writing a lot about WYD recently.  But I mean come on, when 3.7 million people gather for something totally fun, peaceful, and not involving anything crazy/weird...it is easy to keep thinking and reflecting on it cause it is jam packed full of awesome.
So I decided to take a Dave Letterman top 10 approach to savoring the awesome, great moments along with stressful ones that may have led me to freak the freak out on the inside.  Only a little bit. :)

So, drum roll pleaseee...doesn't Dave Letterman always start his with a drum roll?? I thought so. Hmm, okay...moving on right along...

WYD 2013
10.  My "virgin" cocktail with a sleeping pill
Okay, I get this one may sound rather strange...no I did not drink on a trip I was in charge of teens.  First of all, when I travel internationally I typically don't sleep well; it takes me a long time to re-adjust to my new surroundings and by the time I do, BAM!  It's time to go home.  Once our group got to Rio, we were able to balance a a fairly good routine of keeping up with the official schedule and resting...but about half way through the week, I knew I needed a little help to keep me going.  So I pulled out the prescription my doctor gave me for Ambien to help me sleep better and with a chilled glass of zero cal cherry flavored ginger ale, I put on my sleep mask and threw in my ear plugs was off to sleep.  It did help me sleep sounder and give me the energy to not only survive, but thrive all the festivities of World Youth Day.

9.  "The Great Backpack Fiasco of 2013"
This phrase was termed by one of our teens...you can read when she wrote about it on our pilgrimage blog here and here. 
So one of the things all WYD pilgrims receive upon their arrival is this backpack full of goodies: an official t-shirt, hat, cross, a pilgrim guide with maps and resources for getting around, liturgy guide, and most important our free transportation and meal cards.  When we arrived in Rio at our hotel, we were told to drive 50 miles in the opposite direction to go pick them up.  So two adults went and waited for the backs.  After four hours of waiting they were told, they ran out and to come back the next day.  Apparently it was quite chaotic from what I heard when this happened; people were shouting and chanting, "Give us our backpacks! Give us our backpacks!"  The same adults went back the next day even earlier, but no backpacks.  At this time, I was preparing for the worst that we might actually never get them and we wouldn't get the free transportation/food cards.  On Wednesday morning our group was out doing some sight seeing in Rio, when we got a call from one of the other adults that they finally were able to find backpacks!!
We were in the metro station when we got the good news, and burst out into cheers and shouts because we were so excited...and only drew more attention to us as American pilgrims!  In thanksgiving we joined hands in the station and prayed the Our Father out loud together.  We were all so relieved that the "backpack fiasco of 2013" was now officially resolved!

8.  Going to Corcovado and seeing Christ the Redeemer statue
Our first full day in Rio we went to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.  When we arrived there, the weather was very cool and cloudy...we took a tram up to the top which is about a 20 minute ride.
 As you walk up to the statue, you actually come up around the back side on the left of Jesus...hence the picture of Jesus' backside.

The day we went it was cloudy, and honestly you couldn't see all those famous views you hear or read about.  It felt like monsoon winds and we got pelted with buckets and buckets of rain...but hey it makes for all the more special a memory, right? :)

All of this proved an interesting reflection for several in our group that we talked about later that evening in prayer and de-briefing.  For a tourist, getting that perfect picture is important and matters...but we were not tourists in Brazil, but rather pilgrims on a spiritual journey. And sure would I have liked to see all the scenery around us, of course! But honestly that wasn't what going to Corcovado is really all about.  What I took away from that morning was more the spiritual meaning this famous statue of Jesus represents to me and to my life.  Christ welcomes all int His arms, no. exceptions.  He just wants us all...and in striving to be like Jesus (even though half of the time I royally suck at it) I really do want to be that way to all the people in my life.  And even though it rained cats and dogs, I really did experience God's light and warmth that day...just to be there and witness cultures from all over the globe being there in a celebration of faith was definitely one of the high points for me while in Rio.

This is as the high winds broke my umbrella...
But I was still smiling through it all :)

7.  Seeing Pope Francis
On Thursday was the official welcome of Pope Francis to Rio.  He was already in the city doing other things, but it was the first official time he met with the WYD pilgrims and prayed with us.
Having been to WYD twice before, I knew how awesome and special it is to see the Pope up close and I wanted to be sure our pilgrims could have the same experience.  I took our crew to catechesis in the morning; where we had prayer, music, and learned about our faith from a bishop around the US.  My Dad, our body guard/male chaperone was sent on a special mission right after breakfast to stoke out a post along the barricade so we would be sure to front row seats to see Pope Francis.  Our group left catechesis a little early to beat the rush of people and also before the metro closed down into the city at 1pm.
We arrived about 11am and set up a good ol' USA camp along the barricade:)

From about 11a-2p, it was pretty empty around Copacabana.  We were able to split into groups so somebody was always at our spot, and go walk on the beach a little bit, go shopping at the official WYD store, and get food.  I popped a squat on my foam mat and started reading the pilgrim and liturgy guide that came in our backpacks we got the day before.  Nothing like sitting on the street reading a good book ;)

From about 2-4, it got more crowded.  Some Brazilian people started gathering around us, probably hoping we would be gracious to give them our spots. fat.chance.  I'm sorry but if ya want a good standing spot to see the Pope get your butt out here early like we did.

From 4-6pm, it was.crazy.insane. We were literally pushed.right. against the barricade.  The folks behind us were yelling at us to move our backpack, but we chained them to the barricade.  They kept yelling "Americanos, move!" Heck.no. First of all they were pushing so hard that they actually moved the barricade over our stuff that wasn't chained to it.  On top of that there were volunteers pushing it back, with the National Guard behind the volunteers.  Lucky us we got to be sandwiched in the midst of it all...but it is all bout perspective, and I'm choosing to say it was a very 'unique' memory:)

This picture sums it up pretty well, and was probably about 30 minutes before we saw the Pope drive by.

You can of just now when the Pope is en route: people get more pushy, lots of chanting, and then once you hear the screaming a see a flash a of camera light you know the moment is upon you:)
I had become friends with one of the volunteers in front of our area, and he said when Pope Francis drove by he would take my camera and get some pictures.  I was more than happy, because I knew there was no way I could get a good a shot because I would be to busy yelling and cheering my little heart out.  No they ended up not being great shots, but later in the week I got a great video that was really clear to see.
Here he comes!!

And there he goes!!

I know for people who aren't Catholic understanding what the Pope is/means to Catholics may seem odd.  We don't see Pope Francis as Jesus at all.  But when Jesus commissioned the 12 he specifically told Peter, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church."  We understand Peter to be the first Pope, and we see the role of the Pope as a representation of Jesus...the Pope is the spiritual leader/teacher of all that Christ left us.  Did you know every Pope can be historically traced back to Peter?? Crazy!
6.  The porta potties...and how to remain dignified
So originally the overnight vigil was to be held somewhere else in Rio, much further away.  However because of all the rain at the beginning of the week on Wednesday the officials decided to move the whole horse and pony show to Copacabana..especially after they killed 4 alligators at the original site because of all the flooding!! I'm all for adventure, but NOT when it involves alligators!

So anyway because the vigil was moved to the beach, there ended up not being enough porta potties.  Long lines I can live with, but the smell of umm you know, bodily fluids, as you wake up in the morning is not the type of thing that makes you want breakfast.  I used them on Saturday night before I went to bed, and the smell was already bad...bad enough where I jammed toilet paper in my nose when I went in.  By the next morning many people were saying they were overflowing, so in the morning I dug a little hole and did my business in a fairly dignified manner.  Don't judge me.
We were all so glad to get back to the hotel that night and use a real toilet!!

5.  The experience of being with 3.7 million people, all on the same beach
Yup, you heard right; 3.7 million was the total number of people at the closing Mass on Sunday morning.  Honestly other than the whole bathroom thing and it being crowded, it is actually such an awesome experience!  I really loved when our group split off into pairs and just walked around the beach in prayerful, quiet...just observing all of these people, cultures, flags, and many expressions of our faith in Christ.  People sometimes say that the Catholic Church is dying or not vibrant, well clearly they haven't been to World Youth Day.
It is just such a joyful thing to witness and be a part of!  It makes me feel not alone in my faith and really does re-charge my spiritual batteries to see so many people, young people mostly, pumped up and fire for Christ and their faith!

4.  Prayer Vigil on Saturday night with the Pope

The vigil on Saturday into Sunday I think is one of the high points for many people.  We arrived at the beach about 11am and where able to secure the same little grove of palm tree's we hung out during the Stations of the Cross on Friday.  We made such good time because we decided not to wait in the LONGGG line for the food boxes for the Vigil.  We ditched the line and decided to head to the beach so we would have a good spot on the beach.

Saturday afternoon and early evening was spent keeping an eye on our stuff and protecting 'Camp USA', walking to a market far away to get some water/snacks, walking around the beach just observing all the people/flags/cultures present, and standing in very long lines to go potty.  Saturday evening was the prayer vigil with the Pope.  There was Eucharistic Adoration, music, silent prayer time, and Pope Francis gave an awesome reflection.  It was amazing just to close my eyes and look back in my mind that I was there praying with millions of people from all over the globe.
After the prayer, I busted out my blankets and ear plugs...and after one final trip to the bathroom, was off to sleep:)

Setting up camp at Copacabana

Red bike lights on our palm tree...Christmas in July

 3. Participating in the largest flash mob EVER!
Sunday morning before the closing Mass, all 3.7 million of us participated in the world's largest flash mob to welcome and honor Pope Francis.  Not gonna lie.  It was wayyy cool.
Our group is somewhere in there...I'm the one dancing around wearing an Iraqi flag:)

2.  Going to Mass with people from all over the globe
The closing Mass started about 10am on Sunday.  The language used was Portuguese but on mini radios we brought with us we were able to tune in on a certain station to listen in English.  We sang...prayed together....heard the Word proclaimed...and reflected upon the challenge Pope Francis left us in the homily: GO. DO NOT BE AFRAID. SERVE.
Check out the text here, it is really awesome!! :)
Honestly, even with the masses of people on the beach and over flowing onto the streets, you could hear nothing but the bells ringing at the consecration.  To see so many people kneeling in reverence for their love of Christ as they waited to receive communion.  We all walked to special umbrella's where priest's were giving out holy communion.  The communion hymn was "We are one Body, one body in Christ..." the same song played the previous Sunday when we attended Mass at Immaculate Conception in Jacarei.  That song means so much more to me after worshiping with so many of my brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.  We really are all one family, one body in Christ.

After Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will be in Krakow, Poland in 2016!  I'm very much considering going to the next one...my Dad even said he is ready and willing to do this again:)

1.  Most powerful words of World Youth Day...
Surprise, surprise it was from Pope Francis.  But even since returning home, I've sat and reflected on them and they still mean just as much to me as they did hearing them the first time on the sandy beach of Copacabana.

"We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints - saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints." 
--Pope Francis

"What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions, exist to go out!" 

 --Pope Francis

So GO OUT in the world! Be saint and be a messy Christian!
Go make an awesome, beautiful mess in the world for Christ:)

08 August 2013

Friday Quick Takes {vol. 16}

Last Saturday were the Highland Games.  Jim and I went. Kilt and all.  We met up my brother, sister, and her fiance for a really fun afternoon of traditional Scottish fun like the caber toss, dancing, music, and Scottish meat pies and shortbread cookies.  Good company and good times all around! 
And no, we didn't see folks running around in blue war paint like Mel Gibson in Braveheart...although it would be quite a sight to see:)

It is has also been an icky week around these parts for me as I have been fighting the sinus infection from Hell.  Since coming home from Brazil, apparently exhaustion and not good sleep caught up with me.  At first I thought it was just a typical head cold, but when I woke up on Sunday with what looked like pink eye in my left eye, I freaked the freak out and we headed into urgent care.
Thankfully it wasn't pink eye, just some slight bacterial thing plus the sinus thing.  After getting some eye drops and an antibiotic, we were on our way home.  I'm feeling better but still really tired and sluggish.  I usually bounce back pretty well when I come home from traveling, but it has just been harder since I have been sick.  It has just been frustrating because I notice my energy level a lot lower and I haven't gotten half the things I wanted to this week cause I have been a sicky mcsickeron.
Thank goodness for good meds and my dearest friend right now, the netty pot!

This week I realized my sister Annie has also taken up blogging.  You should check out her stuff at This Northern Belle.  She is witty and fun and writes well too! Your welcome ahead of time:)

Annie's wedding shower is Saturday morning.  Excited to shower with love the last of the Breen gal's to marry!  Looking back at our shower, I was amazed how much stuff we got and were set for by the time we moved in together after the wedding...yay free present day!!!  Looking forwarding to dressing up, curling my hair, and a yummy brunch!!

This weekend in the diocesan newspaper there is a story about our World Youth Day pilgrimage.  I had also sent them some pictures, and when I opened it was really surprised to see an almost full page picture of our group at Christ the Redeemer statue!  It still blows my mind we were there and had they awesomely, amazing time that we did!

On Saturday evening my friend Rebecca is hosting a murder mystery dinner party.  I have never been to one before but have heard they are a lot of fun...looking forward to some fun girl time this weekend!

Keep Jim in your prayers as this week he has applied for some social work jobs as he continues to build up a clientele base and network.  One particular one is where he did one of his year-long internships and then worked there the summer we got married.  He was well liked and had a good reputation there, so hoping something will turn up soon!  St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, pray for him and lead him o the right job!

Have a wonderful weekend! :)
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

What Others Dislike...I Love about the Catholic Church

So excited to have Amanda from Worthy of Agape write here.  You should definitely go check out her space in the blog-o-sphere; I've been reading her stuff for awhile and always find it to be insightful and relevant...oh and did I mention Amanda is a newly published author, too!?!?

Anyway here is where I let her take it over! ...

After spending the last few years diving into the depths of Catholicism and immersing myself in things like daily Mass, the Rosary, and other typical Catholic practices, I've come to a realization: the things that most people dislike about the Catholic Church are the things I love most about her.

The Catholic Church tells us we have to go to confession with a priest at least once a year. Who are they to tell us that we have to come face to face with our sins and confess them to a priest? Just because the Church says we have to hear those words of absolution doesn't mean that we want to say our sins out loud for another living, breathing human being to hear.

Stuck in Her Ways
The Catholic Church thinks she's got all the answers and never feels the need to get "up with the times". Women's ordination? Nope. Artificial birth control? She says no, that's not natural, and gets in the way of a holy marriage. Gay marriage? Nope, the Church teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, regardless of what the law of the land or popular vote says. Pre-marital sex? Another big fat no from Mother Church, she teaches that even if all of your hormones are raging you have to wait for marriage to have sex, or else you are a sinner. She even teaches that other things (i.e. oral sex, "fooling around", etc.) are off-limits outside marriage (and even inside marriage if the end result is not open to life). She gets to be a stick in the mud, no matter what is happening in the world.

Love Our Enemies
Mother Church teaches that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. She tells us that we should pray for the guy who raped us, we should forgive all of those who hurt us, and give our other cheek to those who scoff at us. While the Church might acknowledge that loving our enemies is hard, she doesn't give us a free pass or a pat on the back, she simply tells us to love them anyway.

Forgive Others
Not only does the Church teach that we should love our enemies, she also tells us that we need to forgive others. That jerk who cut us off in traffic and caused us to spill our drink all over our new dress on the way to work? We need to forgive him? What about that ex-boyfriend that just won't leave us alone, despite the fact that he's been told to stay out of our life? We have to forgive him too? That family member who has caused our immediate family more pain and strife than words can tell? They need and somehow deserve forgiveness too? No wonder people dislike the Church, this whole forgive your brother not seven, but seventy-time-seven thing is tough stuff.

In the End
In the end I've come to realize that all of the reasons so many hate/struggle with the Catholic Church are all of the same reasons I love her so dearly. Coming face to face with my sins, hearing them out loud, and telling them to another living, breathing human being is one of the most humbling acts on the face of the planet.

The issues she is a "stick in the mud" on? I love her for that, too. She is unwavering and holds fast to Truth like an anchor in the storm. The world may change its mind a thousand times a week on even the most basic issues, but the Church holds to truth and weathers the storm.

Even though her teachings can sometimes be hard to swallow, I've always found that following them leads to greater obedience, greater happiness, peace, and joy. Loving my enemies and forgiving others is difficult, but oh-so-necessary if I want to see and love as God does. You see, the Catholic Church may be a tough pill to swallow, but in all of my struggles with the faith over the years, I've been invited and challenged to look within myself. Looking within myself I find that the very teachings and practices I struggle with the most are the ones I need so desperately. In the presence of God, in the home of the Catholic Church, I'm challenged to rid myself of pride, die to my own desires, and rise to His glory.

In the end I realize that I don't hate the Church at all. In fact, I love her for challenging me and pushing me to holiness, even when I'm tired and the road ahead is long and winding. If countless saints have gone before me, walking this difficult road to holiness, then who's to say that I can't do the same?

 Amanda (Mortus) Sloan is a woman after the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. Amanda is a Colorado native, who graduated from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina with a B.A. in Theology, as well as minors in Psychology and Philosophy. Amanda, a director of faith formation, is the author of Worthy: See Yourself as God Does, available now on AmazonKindle, signed copies can be ordered through her website. Her blog can be found at worthy of Agape.


04 August 2013

A piece of my heart will always belong to Brazil

Well since my return home from Brazil this past Tuesday it appears the travel and exhaustion have caught up with me.  This morning the husband and I spent the morning in urgent care after I awoke to find my eye crusty and goopy (thankfully it wasn't pink eye!).  After some anti-biotics, special eye drops, and constant use of my netty pot I am hunkering down the rest of today till the good ol' medicine starts kicking in.  Jim thought he was funny last night, but more bordering on annoying  as he helped hold my hair back as I did my ever-oh-so-attractive-nasal-rinse and as I am doing my nasty thing he gets this big grin and pipes up: "Gee sweetie, remember that "in sickness and health" thing from our wedding...do you really think God meant to include this in the job description!? "  My response wasn't something exactly charitable and not something I probably should repeat here, but later afterwards we both were able to chuckle about it.  Ohhhh marriage:)

So since I am relaxing in bed today, I decided to crank out this post that has been long on my heart even while I was still in Brazil.
I have been really privileged to do a lot of international traveling in my young adult years that has left me with some amazing memories and really shaped me as a person both emotionally and spiritually.  This most recent pilgrimage to Brazil to attend World Youth Day has left a much deeper impression on my heart than any other WYD or perhaps than any other trip has.  I wanted to make sure I reflect upon it now before I forget and it just becomes a pleasant memory in my heart when I glance at video's or pictures of the years.

Friday, July 19th our group left Detroit and flew direct to Sao Paulo, Brazil and arrived early in the am on Saturday.  Let's just say the sleeping pill + plus constant turbulence didn't allow for the most restful sleep, but I survived it and was just looking forward to the next time I could go to bed:) A bus picked us up at the airport to take us to a town called Jacarei, a suburb of Sao Paulo and about a 45 minute or so bus ride.  As we pulled into town, our bus kinda knocked over a motor cycle and set the alarm off on it; us Americans know how to announce our presence! ;)  As we pulled up next to Immaculate Conception church there were about 40 or so people waving, cheering, and waving the Brazilian flag.  As we got off the bus, honestly the only way I can compare it to is going through a reception line at a wedding as the bride and groom: people just passed us down the line, hugging and kissing us..some even handing us gifts fresh off the bus!  You could just see it in their faces how excited they were to have us here.  And then suddenly they just started grabbing our luggage; I certainly didn't mind the help especially as I packed a bag that was 48 pounds:)  After dropping off all our gear at a storage room in the church we walked a few blocks and walked up the stairs into a building where they prepared breakfast for all of us American pilgrims.

Now when I say breakfast, you may think milk, cereal, and a little fresh fruit, right?  Well what these good souls prepared look like breakfast, lunch, and dinner together! We're talking multiple fresh fruits like mango, papaya, and guava, fresh bread and meats with cheeses, several types of meat casseroles/pastries, cookies, cakes, and then a multiple abundance of fresh fruit juices distinct to Brazil.  WOW. My cup and tummy runneth over.  Of course everything was homemade and you could tell some of these people had gotten up early to make us this dee-lic meal.

The parish priest, Fr. Pedro (an awesome man of God with a killer voice who deserves an album deal with Sony!) welcomed us all in his native tongue, Portuguese and they all clapped for us...closest I ever felt to being a celebrity!  Then Fr. Pedro led his congregation in praying the Our Father in their language, and afterwards invited us to all do so in English. very. cool.  And then the feasting began!
Even before arriving in Brazil, I threw weight Watchers out the window for the time I was there and boy am I glad did!  I tried a little bit of everything and there was nothing I didn't like; for a sometimes picky eater like myself this was a big deal.  I thought I was full until the nuns came around offering second helpings of meat pie, cake, and fruit juice....how do you say no to a cute, smiling nun!? To it all of, there was a gentleman who was playing traditional Brazilian music that only made my desire to get up and learn the samba even greater in me:)

As we were eating the people of the church just came up and talked to us, and we were given a little bag with some welcome gifts.  While staying in Jacarei, each of us would be put up by different host families of the parish; so while the eating, talking, and live music was going on the host families were trying to figure out and find their new American sons and daughters.  After we stuffed our faces with Brazilian yumminess, Fr. Pedro let us know we would go spend the day in the park and doing some activities there.  Afterwards we would come back to the church where our families would come collect us, and then we would spend the evening with them at home until all meeting at church that evening for a fiesta.

After we breakfast we loaded a bus and were off to the park!  As we left, my Dad called my Mom to let her know we safely arrived.  After he got off the phone, I said to him, "What ya say to Mom?" With a chuckle he replied, "I told her we enjoyed a Brazilian feast, that we are now on a bus somewhere in Brazil and having a One Direction sing-a-long." :)  I sat with an awesome young man studying to become a priest.  Andre and I even added each other on Instagram and Twitter and between by not so great Portuguese were able to have a great talk.
The afternoon was spent catching the tail end of Mass for some African pilgrims, walking around, playing on the playground equipment, and enjoying a rousing game of "Telephone" complete with both English and Portuguese words:)

After a fun afternoon at the park, we were pack at the church waiting for my host family to come get me.  Right away I felt at home in Eduardo and Adriana'a lovely home with their daughter Maria Luisa and son Dado...and the most adorable little lap dog Lola, complete with little yellow bows in her hair.  My first mission? Getting a hot shower!  I stank of travel and knew it and couldn't wait to be clean...it really is amazing what a good shower does for your morale.  After my shower, my host mama Adriana gave me a beautiful necklace with the image of Our Lady of Aparecedia; a Brazilian image of the Blessed Mother and the second largest Marian shrine in the world only after Guadalupe in Mexico.

After shower time, Adriana had set out some food which I was not opposed to as I was feeling hungry again.  Honestly it felt like a mini version of breakfast from this morning.  We spent some time getting to know each other.  They shared about their home, lives and I told them about my life back home in Michigan.  There were a few times words didn't make sense in the translation, but thankfully my host papa Eduardo had Google Translate nearby to help with any language issues!  Right away, Eduardo, Adriana, and Maria Luisa made me feel so welcome and a part of their home and even though I wasn't a whiz kid at Portuguese or they didn't know certain English sayings...we bonded our our similarities, our Catholic faith:)

That evening we went on the town in the piazza outside of the church for a beautiful Brazilian summer fiesta; we're talking more delicious food, singing, dancing, and lots of laughing!  I even learned how to samba:)  I came home (cause it already felt like home:) on cloud nine and humming new Brazilian tunes in my head as got ready for bed.

The next morning I slept in a bit and went and breakfast on the back patio with Adriana.  True to form, she had another yummy spread out for breakfast which included something sweet n' special I love called Nutella.  Eduardo joined us also, and the three of us just talked and talked, it was really so wonderful.  Eduardo told me about the political situation in South America, specifically Brazil, and how democracy is still a very new thing here.  Many Brazilians have only known very corrupt government leaders and dictators.  We talked about how Eduardo and his wife met and the lings of work.  They asked me about my husband and life back in Michigan.  We talked about the Catholic Church.  Interestingly enough, Brazil is a country where people are VERY respectful of the Church, nuns, priest's.  Even with a growing number of Evangelical churches, Catholicism is still very rooted in this country and people are fairly consistent in their practice.  Especially when we were in Rio, it was not uncommon to see regularly in restaurants people make the sign of the cross before eating and the taxi driver's are like advertisements for a local Catholic bookstore with rosaries hanging on the mirror and holy images of Jesus and Mary on the dashboard.  Eduardo also shared with me that for the most part the media in Brazil is fairly tolerant and speaks well of the Catholic Church; honestly, when I heard that I was pleasantly surprised because here in the United States that is not the case.

After a nice leisurely morning of food and relaxing, we were off to meet up with the rest of the host families and our American pilgrims for a morning prayer service.  At the prayer service, a deacon led us in some song and a bit of history behind the story of Our Lady of Aparecedia and then we prayed the Angelus together (a traditional Marian prayer).  Afterwards we headed back home, because all the other pilgrims and host families were coming over to the condo complex my family lived in for Brazilian BBQ...these people love a good party! :)
Sunday afternoon was filled with Fr. Pedro singing, more dee-lic food fruit juices, tons more dancing, and even a friendly soccer game between Brazil and USA.  Already our American pilgrims were SO touched and humbled by all the kindness these people, my Dad organized all the USA pilgrims to sing a song to our Brazilian hosts...the only one we thought everybody would know?  Take me out to the ball game:)  So we sang our little American hearts out with this slightly cheesy song, but afterwards when the people of Jacarei gave us a standing ovation, you could tell that they loved it.  I'm sure somewhere there is a video of us signing horribly off key to this well known American tune... ;)

Sunday evening we got to get our Jesus on by going to Mass, woot woot!!  All the American pilgrims got walk in with the processional and sit up front together with our host families.  To top that off, my Dad who is an ordained deacon was able to proclaim the Gospel in English to a Portuguese speaking congregation during Mass.  It was so surreal, and I know for him one of the most spiritually touching moments for him thorough out the whole pilgrimage.

I cried like a baby through the whole Mass. like. a lot. After Fr. Pedro's homily, another priest who came with us from the States who also happened to speak the language spoke words our gratefulness on behalf of all our pilgrims.  The communion hymn was "We are one body in Christ."  If at the beginning of Mass I was crying, by this point I was sobbing.  The words of the refrain took on such a new meaning for me, "We are one body, one body in Christ and we do not stand alone..." Here I was in this little parish in Brazil, not knowing a lick of Portuguese but being able to come together and worship together...and it was our worship of God as Catholic Christians that made us a family, one body in Christ.  I have been to beautiful basilica's all over Europe but nothing perhaps may ever be able to compare with the sacredness of going to Mass in this humble Brazilian church.  After communion, Fr. Pedro sang a song to honor all the American pilgrims...by this point I was handing out tissues to other people around me.  After that our dear friend Pedro from the town stod up and spoke in English (as he was cried...I'm toast when I see others cry!) how much he and all our families loved us and deeply cherished our few days together.  Then, he handed out special gift bags with things from the parish to remember our stay here.  After that, the whole church gave us a standing ovation (turn on the water works!) to honor us.  After Mass ended and the final hymn was sung, we had another 20 minutes or so of more hugs, tears, and LOTS of group pictures.

A second family...(L to R) Adriana, Maria (another American pilgrim), Eduardo, Maria Luisa, Dado, and me:)

Brazil and United States...two countries forever bonded in love and friendship <3
 Afterwards we headed out to the piazza for a final evening of dancing, yummy food, and merry making! I danced my heart out and laughed and had such a great time!  Fr. Pedro was around visiting with some of his parishioners and at one point in the evening he was chatting with my Dad, and Dad motioned me to come over.  Fr. Pedro asked me if I was having a good time and enjoyed my visit in Jacarei.  I eagerly nodded and said to him, "Fr. Pedro part of me doesn't even want to leave and head onto Rio.  Can I just stay here and watch the Pope on TV with all of you?"  He smiled and laughed a hearty laugh, and then said all of us would always be welcome in their homes, in this parish forever.
How is it that people you have only known for a few brief days can leave such a lasting impact on you?
Monday morning was up early to meet at church and catch a bus that would take us for a quick visit to the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Aparecedia and then later that evening to Rio.
Eduardo and Maria Luisa drove me to church since Adriana had to leave early for work that morning.

When we arrived at church there were tables set up and people from the parish were giving us water bottles, snacks, t-shirts, and other things as memento's from our visit here.  You could tell people were putting off their goodbye hugs as if waiting could hold off those moments just a little longer.
I hugged Maria Luisa and Eduardo goodbye and thanked them so much telling them how I loved every minute.  Eduardo called me his American daughter.  We all exchanged Facebook, Skype, and e-mail to stay in touch.
As I get on the bus all the host families were waving, cheering, and singing us farewell songs (yup you guessed it, water works went live at this point for me!).  As the bus pulled away, there were lots of tears and waving flags out the window.  I yelled out to my Brazilian papa, "See you on Skype, Papa!"
Even as we left, I still sniffled back tears for a bit longer under the coverage of my sunglasses.

I never have experienced such a welcoming spirit, love, and hospitality from people I barely knew in only just a few days ago.  These people welcomed us in and made us feel one of their own, a part of their family.  In the Bible, Jesus said "I was a stranger and you welcomed me..."; we experienced nothing less than that of the people of Jacarei from Immaculate Conception parish.
Since returning home, my Dad and I have already said we would go back and visit again...hmmm maybe Brazil road trip 2014?? ;)

And so that is why folks, a piece of my heart now will always belong to Brazil...to the awesome family and friends I have made in Jacarei:)

01 August 2013

Friday Quick Takes {vol. 15} The WYD edition...

Home and happily exhausted for Brazil and look forward to writing some post's reflecting on all the awesome crazy that is World Youth Day.
So today, I thought I would do a set of quick takes reflecting on some of the most memorable/crazy memories of WYD Rio 2013.

Tuesday morning our flight landed in Detroit.  I didn't sleep too great or at all on the long plane ride from Brazil...but I did get to watch the movie 'Jane Eyre', which was great because I have been wanting to rent it for awhile.  I was SO happy to be home, but at the same time kind of sad because our group had such an amazing time and didn't want to leave all our new friends/family.

When we got home, Jim had balloons all over the living room saying things like, "Go Pope Francis!", "I missed cuddling with you!", and "Welcome home mi amore!"  He also got some flowers and had done a fabulous job cleaning the bathroom for me...nothing is more wonderful than 11 days pilgrimage and coming home to a clean, hot shower!
Later that evening, we went out to dinner with my parents, brother, sister, and future bro-in-law for some American food and sharing stories and presents from Brazil.  Only bad thing is I got a cold when I got home, but nothing a little vitamin C can't handle:)

So on our first full day in Rio, we went on a tour of Corcovado/the Christ Redeemer statue.  Having to get up at the butt crack of dawn (talking 5am) and having breakfast early was rough, but we were all definitely excited to see it all.

It ended up being a VERY rainy/windy day, and all we could see was literally the statue of Jesus because it was so foggy and cloudy.  Honestly, it didn't really bother us because our spirits were high just to be there.  My mindset was a person on vacation is more focused on just seeing a great view and snapping the perfect picture, but we were on pilgrimage, and pilgrims focus more on the spiritual significance on it all.  The image of Christ's open, welcome arms are such a real sign of God's love for all people, and especially how we felt welcomed into the homes/lives of the Brazilian people we met.
And hey it proved to make all the more memorable because of the weather...it's all about perspective, right? :)  The only downer was when the high winds killed my umbrella, it died a very painful death.
As our group was chanting "USA, USA..." a local Brazilian TV channel interviewed my Dad and I, and then later when we were eating lunch we got to watch the interview!  Too cool. You can check out the interview here

"The backpack fiasco of 2013."  One of the things with WYD is upon arrival you get a special backpack full of a pilgrim and liturgy guide, food and transportation cards, an official shirt, hat, and more...well we didn't get our back packs until Wednesday afternoon.
We had group leaders driving around over 2 days all over the city trying to get our packs, especially because we had free transportation and food cards in there to use during the official WYD festivities.

Honestly by Wednesday morning, we were preparing to deal with the worse of it...but thankfully we got a call that morning as we were in the metro station we had secured packs for our group.  SO excited, we cheered and shouted and in thankfulness broke out in praying the Our Father right there in the station.  Thanks for the hook-up Jesus, boy did it help us out!

On Sunday morning at Mass, with 3.7 million people on Copacabana beach we performed the largest flash mob in history to honor Pope Francis.  Check this video of it all!  I'm the one dancing around in the Iraq flag:)

How freaking cool is that!?!?

One thing WYD teaches you is patience.  One specific instance helps me remember this.  The day Pope Francis arrived our group arrived at the beach very early like at 9am to set up an area for our group to watch the Pope drive by.  We camped out there.all.day.long.  From 2-4pm it started getting more crowded and people were hovering around us, and we were starting to keep a close eye on our spot.  From 4-6pm, we literally spent the full two hours pushed up against the barricade, because of the pushy and somewhat rude people behind us.  They actually started yelling at us, and eventually started pushing so hard they moved the barricade over our backpacks and forward like 6 inches...thankfully they had volunteers lined up to push it back, and also the National Guard was there to offer even more security.
It was at times hard trying to think kind and charitable thoughts to the somewhat loud, pushy people behind us.  Let's just say at the end of the day we were glad to head back to the hotel and sit down from all the standing and pushing...but hey, it's a memory to always be able to look back on right?  all.about.perspective.

So from the last 2 pictures from above, you can tell (even if it is blurry) we got to see the Pope!  Actually our group got to see him 3 times drive by, which rocked my world a wee bit.  Sunday morning before Mass, I even got to record a video of it on my phone.  For some weird reason I can't upload it from the computer here.

So before going to Brazil I realized that they speak Portuguese, which sadly I realized upon getting there I should have studied better.  Interestingly enough, all the people we met were very helpful and kind with the language even though I felt like a shmuck at times for not learning it as good as I could have before coming.
There were many a times in the hotel restaurant or eating out where we would just point to a dish...but the one phrase I got down good was "thank you"; or in Portuguese it is "obrigado."  We joked throughout our time there that this one magical word seemed to get us around fairly well with little to no problems.  No I am not advocating to not learn the native tongue of a country you visit, but in our case it happened to go rather smoothly!
It was cute because for the last 11 days I have been so used to saying it everywhere I caught myself saying it to Jim the other night when he made dinner...bringing a bit of the Brazilian back home with me!! ;-)

Be sure to check out the link-up party over at Jen's...have a happy weekend!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
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