Moving Mountains

“Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

Today I pray for:

  • The Lord to be my strength
  • more faith
  • a greater expectation for the impossible

I am weary, Lord. Shower upon my soul the graces I need to persevere with love. Amen.

Out of my prayer, I learned:

  • the purest love given is when I have no strength left
  • moving mountains isn’t up to me
  • the impossible may not happen overnight

  

Living For You

Jesus said to his disciples,“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay each according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28)

Today I’m praying for:

  • a release of unrealistic expectations for myself
  • transformation and continuous conversion
  • humility and acceptance of my own limitations

My reason for this Novena of Rest: The Motherhood Days We Should Talk About

Out of my prayer I realize:

  • I’m not here to be comfortable
  • anything worth living for and working for is going to be hard
  • I don’t have to do this by myself 

Take the whole world and GIVE ME JESUS…

Resting in Him alone. Amen.

  

What I Wish

“For my daughters, for your daughters. For my sons, for your sons. This is what I wish.

You are young with eyes that spark and speak of innocence. Don’t trade. Don’t trade the pure peace that greets you each morning for a taste of something meant for later. Later, when a person handpicked by God will want nothing more than to protect you. They won’t want from you. They will want FOR you.

When I was young with eyes that sparked and spoke of innocence, I found myself lured by the pull of a want. A want that welled up from deep within the heart of a girl desperate. For love. For kind words. For that feeling of being wanted, noticed, and told she’s pretty.

I tucked my peace in my pocket feeling so certain it would stay even if I stuck my toes in the current of my want.

I waded out into forbidden waters. Ankle deep, the rush felt thrilling. Knee deep I felt old enough, strong enough and a bit annoyed that people I respected didn’t trust me. I knew what I was doing. This didn’t feel dangerous so I reasoned it wasn’t dangerous.

But it was. I was wrong.

This is what I wish. That I had listened.

Listened to voices of truth to turn back, run back, get myself out of the current. Resist the pull. Refuse the lie that feelings are to be followed. Feelings are to be brought up onto the solid ground of truth. Truth that doesn’t shift. Truth that doesn’t betray.

But I kept walking out further and further. Deeper and deeper. And into a current so strong I didn’t even realize how far I’d gone. Until it was too late. Waves of regret, anxiety, and fear swept over me. The one that told me I was pretty was gone.

And so was something else. I shoved my hand into my pocket now empty. I’d been so sure peace would stay. I was wrong. It had slipped away.

Oh if only I’d known even at that point to turn, run back to the truth, get back to solid ground. I would have seen peace had washed up there. When peace slips it always finds its way back to stand hand in hand with truth. Just like I eventually did. But to have never walked away and dipped my toes where they shouldn’t have gone would have prevented years of heartbreak and an ocean of tears.

Make that choice now. No matter where you are. This is what I wish.”

– Lysa TerKeurst

Holy Tedium Through Easter Eyes

Wake up. Feed the boy. Catnap until girl climbs into my bed asking for breakfast. Wash a few dishes. Serve food to next girl. Baby stumbles into the living room. Feed him, too. I eat…at some point.

Morning offering. Kids begin routine. Lessons. Snacks. Playtime. More snacks. More lessons. Try to keep baby from making a huge mess of the place.

Cook for kids. Lunchtime. Cook for me. Kids do lessons. I eat. Baby is sleepy. Put baby to sleep. Wash more dishes.

Cook dinner. Get ready for work. Serve kids dinner. Go to work. Come home. Eat dinner. Pray with husband and kids. Get ready for bed. Do more work. 

Go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat daily.

******************************

It doesn’t seem that exciting, does it? Honestly, it isn’t if this is all I see in my days: complete and utter tedium. But when I open my eyes and my heart to all the sparks of joy in between I notice…

Kali’s singing. Thérèse’s giggles. Meleana’s invitations to play and her gentle reminders to clean up their toys. The frolicking around as Jean Paul chases his siblings from room to room. Gary’s random freestyle dance moves.

I hear apologies throughout the day with forgiveness being offered without hesitation. I open a refrigerator full of food and know that God continues to provide. I feel little arms come up to give me the sweetest hugs. I watch my girls reading to each other out of books about saints and the Mass.

Behind the desk, I listen to client after client give witness to God’s hand working in their desires and teaching them how to love. From the most serious discussions to bouts of spontaneous laughter, each appointment grants me the greatest privilege to be walking with couples who share so much of their hearts with me. There is the common goal of ultimate surrender where we all are learning to trust God completely, no matter the circumstances. I relish in the banter of mutual encouragement because I, too, walk away feeling strengthened for the road ahead.

What a treasure trove each day truly is.

This. Is. My. Life.

After 40 days of praying for a greater appreciation of my vocation, I finally can acknowledge the “rightness” of it all. God didn’t make a mistake when He made me a mother, even though there were times when I would seriously question His plan. I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of parenthood and the huge sacrifices that would come once life was conceived in my womb.

But God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.

I’m not doing any of this on my own. I’ve been blessed with a husband who loves us enough to give of himself so freely that he rarely spends time with his friends on the weekends. We both heavily depend on the grace of God to carry us through our marriage in order to provide a home that is rooted in mercy and peace. Faith is our stronghold. It has been since the very beginning. Never able to take full credit for anything good that happens in our family, we are very aware of how broken our paths were, leading up to the place we find ourselves today. The Lord has been good to us. And it is the foundation of prayer that has brought incredible healing to our hearts over the years.

Every once in a while, we get to tell our story. When those opportunities come, they bring Gary and I back to the miracle of hope that we were both given before meeting each other almost 11 years ago. Tracing back to the roots of our relationship reminds us how precious the gift of marriage and family is, as God molded us for one another and for the children He has blessed us with.

So when I reflect back on what Easter means for our journey together, I realize that it’s the “New Beginning” he and I desperately needed. Just as the Resurrection summons us to live Heaven’s joy in our daily lives as we share the Gospel, the birth of our friendship and every amazing experience that shortly followed give meaning to the seemingly ordinary events we may take for granted.

Even now as my husband stands over a sink of dirty dishes after putting the kids to sleep, he’d make Mother Teresa proud. Small things with great love. No glamour necessary.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. 🙂

 

My Third Fall

Five weeks since Ash Wednesday. You would think that I’d be flying through Lent filled to the brim with spiritual fruit after all the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that I committed to. Well…let’s just say 7 days before the Triduum I’ve been reduced to a crawl.

Have I not been praying enough? Not fasting enough? Not giving enough? I really don’t know. I do my best with the time and energy I have amidst the responsibilities that accompany my vocation. But I was so broken down and exhausted that I texted my husband, “I think Jesus is even disappointed in me.”

I felt like a horrible mother. My patience was already wearing thin at the beginning of this week. Tuesday wasn’t much better. And on Wednesday, I was on the verge of a major breakdown. I could feel the tension boiling under the pressure of trying to hold myself together. I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. I had to keep going.

Begging for God’s mercy, I asked forgiveness for failing my children. How long would I be able to keep this up? Daily arguments, hurt feelings, frustrations, cranky-tired meltdowns…and that was just the kids. The sunshine pierced through the storm clouds when Thérèse and I had this conversation:

Thérèse: Mommy, when did St. Nicholas become a Saint? When he was a kid?

Me: No, he became a Saint after he died. You have to die first before you can be a Saint. Then your family and friends share how good you were when you were alive. When the Church knows you’re in Heaven, then they make you a Saint.

Thérèse: So when I die, there will be TWO St. Thérèse’s in Heaven!!

Me (smiling): That’s right, Thérèse.

Gary tried to convince me that I was doing something right, and I had to thank God for that moment because it was the culture of faith we built in our home that was carrying us through some rough waters. Even though I stumble and fall when my cross feels too heavy to bear, my heart still cries out for the grace to embrace it and grow to be the best wife and mommy I can be.

I love my husband and my kids with all my heart and I want more than anything for us to share eternity with one another after our journey here is done. So I pray for a bigger and brighter perspective in my parenting, as well as in my marriage and every other aspect of my life. I realize that the more attached I am to the comforts and pleasures of this world, the easier it is to forget the ultimate purpose that God created me for.

It was incredibly timely that a dear friend of mine shared this beautiful Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross with excerpts from the Diary of St. Faustina.  My heart resonated with the reflections she shared with me, and I couldn’t wait to look it up and pray through them as well. Nothing could be more perfect right now, as I tend to be my own worst critic when I’m not meeting my own expections. So my soul cries out, “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”

Now for the home stretch…

“Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of humanity’s fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step toward our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep.”
— Pope Benedict XVI

40 Day Detox (20 days in)

Last year for Lent, I did the “40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge” because we literally needed to declutter our house. It was a physical reflection of all the emotional baggage I was holding onto that I had accumulated over the years. There was A LOT of it. So I threw out and donated bags of stuff, all the while recognizing areas in my life where I felt weighed down by burdens that I carried for far too long.

This year I started a special diet to clean out my body through the entire Lenten season. I wanted a practice of fasting that would actually improve my health and give me enough energy to be more productive at home. At the same time, I’ve given up Facebook in order to free up more time for prayer and work.

It’s been 20 days. I’m at the halfway point. I started on “Fat Tuesday” and the detox process hasn’t been easy. It’s not hard to find creative   recipe alternatives, but breaking the routine is what’s a bit tough. Believe me, I want my go-to comfort foods. Knowing how they make me feel, however, motivates me to make other choices for the sake of my personal well-being. I’m sure my immune system will be grateful. Let me give you an example…

Last week, I accidentally made one too many grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids. I LOVE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES. To top it all off, I was using sweet Hawaiian bread. How much yummier can it get? I didn’t want to waste food… So I ate it. And it was SO good. Agh! Within 5 minutes, I had a huge headache, I could feel the inflammation all over my insides, and I was in the worst mood ever. Too bad, so sad…I’m allergic to gluten and that just confirmed it. So back to the diet I went.

 The spiritual detox has been interesting, to say the least. It hit me recently that I couldn’t escape from myself. Since I can’t just scroll through my newsfeed or post at will, I’m forced to listen to my own private thoughts ALL THE TIME. My mind doesn’t shut off easily. It runs a million miles an hour and will accelerate to light speed if there happen to be triggers that set off traces of negative emotions. Slowing down in the stillness has helped me acknowledge those triggers, process the thoughts and feelings accordingly, and find a healthy way to cope and communicate them instead of hiding behind walls that no one can get through.
The one goal I have during this penitential season is to be able to see myself the way God sees me: in Truth. The Lord is loving and merciful, so if He is able to forgive me for my shortcomings, I need to stop being so hard on myself. But because He made me and has given me specific gifts and talents, He also knows what I am capable of and expects me to use them well. The whole diet thing plays a major role in the larger scheme of things because if I’m not feeling good physically, it affects EVERYTHING. So I’m trying to take care of the “temple” as best as I can (still need to work on getting to sleep before midnight!). 

Overall, the first half of Lent has been good considering the lessons I’ve learned about my attachments to certain things. I still feel the pull to jump back into the social media mix, but I know that when I return, I’ll come back with a more focused purpose and better self-discipline. As far as food goes, I’ll be setting an example and teaching kids about nutrition choices – which will be especially important for any of them that may have inherited my compromised immunity. They’ll hopefully grow up understanding how precious and wonderfully made their bodies are, and that we should do as much as we can to keep them in good condition so that we can do God’s work here on earth. All the while, the cravings and internal struggles I experience are offered up in prayer for the intentions that arise throughout each and every day. 

I want a donut. But I want to do His will even more. I want to know what’s going on with my family and friends. But my daily rosaries for all of them can do so much more than hitting the “Like” button. 

Whenever I die to the desires of my flesh, I rise to be a clearer image of Jesus to the world. If I can be a more effective vessel of His love and light after I’ve detoxified my life, then all glory be to God.

There’s still so much work to be done in my heart…

Dear 14-year-old Self

A few months ago, I gave a chastity talk to the Nunc Coepi Youth Group, and I shared my relationship history with the teens. It was quite the roller coaster. Because my identity as a young person was not grounded in the love and mercy of Christ, I made some really bad decisions. When I wanted to feel wanted and affirmed, I sought the attention of guys who had no idea how to take care of my heart. I had all the intelligence to get me into Honors and AP classes in high school, but absolutely no common sense when it came to choosing who I would spend my time with.

See, as a teenager, I already had professional goals. I wanted to be a doctor – just like my mom. This ambition would direct every academic choice I made, and I had a clear path as to what I needed to do to get there. But regarding my vocation, I was floundering around assuming I’d get married someday while never connecting the end with the practical means to have the kind of marriage my parents had. After a while, my priorities started to change and my social life began to take over. By the time I was a senior in high school and into my first few years of college, I was struggling academically because I just didn’t care anymore.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Honestly, I don’t think I even thought that much about it. I wore my heart on my sleeve…gave it to whomever claimed would love me…and picked up the shattered pieces each time it was broken and left behind. It never occurred to me that I should save myself for the man of God who would walk into my life to give me the kind of love that was true and completely selfless.

There was unfaithfulness, carelessness, physical and emotional abuse wreaking havoc on my self-image. Practically every year there was a different boy proclaiming his undying devotion and then not long after unashamedly back pedaling on his words. The one relationship that I thought would result in marriage came to a halt because of my own discernment with the Carmelite Sisters. And Jesus Himself closed the door through a lupus diagnosis just a month after I was accepted as a candidate. As a young adult, I was so jaded that I didn’t want to get married at all.

So how in the world did I end up here…with an amazing husband and four beautiful children?

Absolutely and positively BY THE GRACE OF GOD. It’s true that He saved me from myself, but if I just made better choices I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and energy on things that emotionally drained me.

I wish I knew at 14 years old what I know now. So I write this letter to my 14-year-old self in hopes that it will reach the hearts of my own daughters and nieces someday. They say that Experience is the best teacher, but I truly believe that we don’t have to jump off a cliff to know that it would be dangerous to do so (that was the best analogy I could think of!).

Here I go…

Dear 14-year-old Self,

You are beautiful. You are loved. Your life matters so much more than you realize right now.

This is where I have to start because these are three truths that you don’t seem to believe right now. Since you do not believe them, you are walking a dangerous line right now…about to get into the first “romantic” relationship you’ve ever had. Behind your parents’ back. Yeah, I know your mom told you that you shouldn’t have a boyfriend until you graduate from college, and it sounds totally ridiculous. But this guy you want to go out with isn’t going to be your husband. He can’t even think past tomorrow, and won’t treat you as if you were going to be his future wife someday. The same will be true about the next guy. And the next guy. And the next guy.

Of course you would love to hear all the juicy details about what happens with every dating relationship you ever have, should you continue on this road…but let me just cut to the chase and tell you: The only one that ends in marriage was completely different than all the others. YOU SAVE YOUR FIRST KISS WITH HIM FOR YOUR WEDDING DAY. And that will be your idea. What makes you think up such radical measures? When you meet him at 27 years old, you finally have a good idea about who you really are. You want to know if he thinks you are beautiful on the inside. You long to meet another who would really love you with the love of Christ. And you are determined to find out if your life really matters to him. It will be worth it to wait for him. Trust me.

But let’s first take a bit of time to talk about these truths you struggle with now…

1. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
I know you don’t feel pretty. You don’t feel pretty because the images on the front covers of your magazines look nothing like you. You want the light hair and light eyes…the flawless skin and perfectly shaped body clothed with a stunning wardrobe. But to what end? What kind of happiness do you think it will bring you? Sure, attention is nice, but it is incredibly fleeting. Good looks do not keep relationships going. It’s a person’s inner beauty that holds true value – her virtue, compassion, and lasting joy. Being the best person you can be in everything you do gives your beauty power and strength. Your friendships will be more authentic and the foundation of your future marriage will stand on solid ground.

And guess what? It’s FREE! You don’t have to spend money becoming more beautiful on the inside. The Lord gave you a smile that lights up the room. He blessed you with a generous heart so full of love. And if you ask Him, He can still pour more grace upon you to be a young woman who inspires and leads others to become the best people they can be. That, my dear, can help change the world.

2. YOU ARE LOVED.
Unconditionally. Do you know what that means? No matter what you have done…no matter how unworthy you feel…no matter what faults you may carry, Someone loves you. And this Someone has created you out of love in this particular time and place to be surrounded by His love. There are certain relationships in your life where you may not necessarily feel loved, so it’s hard to accept this truth. I get it. But some people who love you very much, for one reason or another, just have a hard time saying it. And others who walk into your life will tell you they love you just so they can use you. It’s important that you know what is real and what is not. See, true love is self-sacrificing. Look at the crucifix. That’s love. Watch how hard your parents work just so you can live comfortably and have everything you need. That’s love. Teachers and mentors who invest in you and share their wisdom with you. That’s love.

“But I want to hear it!” cries your broken soul.

I do, too. So let me tell you a secret. If you sit silently in front of the Tabernacle – or better yet, in Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where you’re looking at Jesus and He’s looking at you – you’ll hear Him say it. Over and over and over again.

“I love you. I love you. I love you.” No matter what you have done.

3. YOUR LIFE MATTERS.
In a society where “Whatever”, “Who cares?”, and “It doesn’t matter” are thrown around in daily conversation, it’s tough for passion to develop into anything more than passing fads. People gravitate towards superficial pop culture and religiously follow rising trends like sails in the wind. So you feel like a big nobody because you’re not on TV or singing on the radio. Your face isn’t recognizable and no one’s hunting you down for your autograph. You dream about living a future filled with success, independence, and fame…but in the corner of your moonlit bedroom, The Lord places His blessing upon you with a Plan much bigger than you could ever imagine.

Instead of showering you with success, He equips you for faithfulness. Instead of granting you independence, He forms you to be completely dependent on Him through whom you can do all things. Instead of making you famous, He keeps you humble so that you can be an empty vessel for the Holy Spirit to transform the lives around you.

Every day of your life matters.

If you are faithful to the little things, God knows you will be able to handle the amazing mission He made you to fulfill. It’s in the ordinary life that He molds the most influential saints. Think of the story of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. As you do the smallest of tasks with great love, The Lord prepares you to be extraordinary. Washing dishes, folding laundry, cleaning your room, doing your homework, studying for tests. All of your responsibilities foster patience, perseverance, and humility – virtues that you will need to live this life well.

In all honesty, there are days when I don’t want to do anything. However, keep in mind that I’m 38 years old. Not only do I have to take care of myself, I need to wash five other people’s dishes, fold their laundry, and keep our living space clean (although I do have a husband who helps out a lot!). I’ve got responsibilities I don’t really enjoy doing, but things need to get done…otherwise our lives would be a disaster. If I didn’t feel like paying bills and decided to spend every weekend at the mall, we wouldn’t have a roof over our heads and food on our table. So in a sense, we all battle the temptation to laziness to some degree. There’s nothing wrong with getting rest when we’re tired or hanging out with friends in our free time. But it’s also important to know that when we don’t pull our weight at home, it makes someone else’s load heavier. And if we neglect our schoolwork or job duties, it affects any chances of moving on to a great university or a more fulfilling career.

What does this have to do with relationships? A LOT. There’s so much more to life than that cute boy who wants to ask you to Winter Formal. Or the flirty guy in Spanish class who you’re starting to crush on. And that potential boyfriend you are about to give yourself to? Let him wait. This is the perfect time for you to get to know The One who infinitely loves you and let Him show you how blessed you really are.

The world doesn’t need you to be popular, pretty, or the lucky girlfriend of a hot guy. It desperately needs you to be LOVE…

In His Most Sacred Heart,
Your Older Self

Now this is when I talk to you the reader heart-to-heart. You don’t need to know exactly what’s going to happen in your future. Don’t even try to plan it so rigidly where there’s no longer any room for God to work. And for your own sake, PLEASE don’t visit a fortune teller or anything of the like to get consolation about where you’ll be 20 years from now (that would be spiritually dangerous!). If my 38-year-old self could really time travel back to talk to my stubborn 14-year-old self, she probably wouldn’t believe her…but I hope you do after reading this letter.

All you need to know is that your Creator is going to move mountains for you. He loves surprising us with the most amazing gifts Heaven can give because the “impossible” is what he does best. The Lord is going to use every situation and circumstance for good, provided that you want Him to. Trust in His purpose for your life and rest secure in His arms. Seek Him when you are lonely; praise Him in the storm. In good times, thank Him and always place Him first in your life. You’ll find that when you let God be God, He will fill your life with miracles, big and small.

Because He breathed love and life I to you, He knows exactly what will bring your heart the most joy and peace.

Be ready to receive…