Holy Tedium Through Easter Eyes

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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.

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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

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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)

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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

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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…

How to Make a Million-Dollar First Impression with Nicole Kidman (or Your Future Wife)

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Endearing and witty…a preciously charming burst of sunshine on late-night TV…

The Tonight Show’s multi-talented comedian host and Classroom Instrument band director Jimmy Fallon is loved by the masses because he’s as genuine as the boy next door. What makes him so well-received by America is that he’s real…and vulnerable.

He’s everything most people want to be: fun, entertaining, and authentic.

And on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, the airwaves transmitted an unforgettable interview with Nicole Kidman that would leave the audience in stitches because of the big-time secret revealed by the world-renowned actress.

You can watch the clip here (please do – it’s hilarious!)

Naturally both of them were embarrassed, and we got a good laugh at their expense. He brought it up; she wanted to talk about it, right? I think it either opened up a can of worms or brought closure to the fact that Jimmy might have been wondering all these years why at that “meeting” she never even mentioned Bewitched, and that Nicole couldn’t understand why such a magnetic TV personality suddenly went mute in her presence.

Of course, you know me. I couldn’t resist turning Jimmy’s first encounter with Nicole into a what-you-need-to-do lesson on interacting with the opposite sex. So here are 5 ways to make a million-dollar first impression with Nicole Kidman…or your potential future wife:

1. MEET IN A PUBLIC PLACE
Your home/apartment is your safe haven and you likely treat it as such. Everything that you are is reflected in the place where you live. If you’re already nervous about meeting someone, hang out at a coffee shop…wine bar…somewhere comfortable that you’ve been before so that you can at least relax a little more. Chances are that if you’re hosting her at your bachelor pad, ten minutes…ten hours…or ten days isn’t enough time to figure out what kind of cheese and crackers she likes. This doesn’t go to say that you’re necessarily concealing pieces of your lifestyle, but the more nerve-wracking the situation, the more you resort to those things in your safe haven that help you subconsciously escape reality. Yes, I’m talking about the video games. After you’ve established the friendship, I would suggest inviting her to a nickel arcade and see if she can at least come close to beating you at Donkey Kong and Street Fighter. Then you’ll know you’ve got something in common. But as it goes in the potent and powerful message recently published by Bobby Angel, you might want to tone down on the video games so that you can prepare yourself for the curveballs that life will inevitably throw at you.

2. PUT YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD
Ditch the hat, even if you haven’t showered in two days. Just like the video games, it’s another subtle way of hiding and shying away from people…and it’s kind of obvious when you’re wearing a cap indoors where it’s not functional for shielding the sun from your eyes. She wants to see your face, your tousled hair (or in my husband Gary’s case, his bald head), and most especially your smile. If your wingman didn’t give you much notice, work with what you’ve got! At least brush your teeth…

3. LET YOUR WINGMAN TAG ALONG
Speaking of whom… This friend of yours will actually put you both at ease if he sticks around. The third person can keep conversation flowing when they notice awkward silences, especially because your friend knows one or both of you really well. If you’re shy and not good at small talk, he will likely throw in funny factoids about growing up together or interesting things that you could share more about. However, if he’s the kind of friend that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut and starts spilling the beans about your past relationships, etc., then you’ll have to take over and lead the conversation that would otherwise turn disastrous. If it seems like he’s sabotaging the moment…umm, he probably likes her, too.

4. TALK TO HER…ABOUT HER
Most women love to talk about themselves. Not always in an egotistical way, but because we’re very emotional beings and openness generates bonding. We love it. That’s why we can talk all night with our girlfriends. So ask about her interests and the topics she’s passionate about. Try to understand why she pours so much of her heart into what she does. What’s her family like? What were her favorite memories as a kid? Don’t talk about yourself unless she asks. If she asks questions as well, then it means she’s not all about her. If you dominate the conversation, then she might be reading it as you being all about you. But the important thing is that you talk…about something.

5. GIVE HER A REASON TO SEE YOU AGAIN
With every first interaction we have with others, there are always two different perspectives…two different frameworks…two lives influenced by different upbringings that affect the way we size up and make judgments about one another. From that first impression we decide whether or not we want to get to know the other person more. If you’re truly intrigued by this woman – as intimidating as her resume, looks, education, and faith might be – make sure that your body language also communicates that you care about who she is as a person. Even if marrying her isn’t even on your radar, she was created with an incredible dignity that deserves to be honored. And when you come out of your shell as a man, it will give her the opportunity to affirm and honor who you are as well. There is much that you can learn from each other, so seize the day (or hour and a half)!

All in all, we can hit play a million times and fall in love with the bantering back and forth between Jimmy and Nicole because the ending wasn’t really tragic. They are both living happily ever after, each with their amazing spouses and children. And the Jimmy Fallon we totally adore on The Tonight Show is beautifully growing into his own skin. He absolutely loves his wife and little girls, and has gone through trials that have shaped the core of who he is. As I’m discovering more about him, I appreciate the depth of his humanity and the way he searches for joy in the most important treasures a heart can ever hold.

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Now you can only imagine what those talks will be like between Jimmy and his daughters when they are of “dating age”.

Jimmy: “Did he talk much? What was he wearing? Does he know that Brie cheese and corn chips don’t really go together? Do you want to invite him over to play video games?”

Winnie Rose & Frances Cole: “Daaaad…”

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On a side note: I just read a touchingly candid interview with Jimmy saying that he and his wife Nancy suffered from 5 years of infertility, and Nicole Kidman also shared openly about her infertility as mentioned in this article. What started as a spark for this post took a turn into the realm of my work as a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner, and it made me appreciate more deeply the blessing that NaProTECHNOLOGY has become for infertile couples. No need for surrogates, donor eggs or sperm, IVF, and the like. There is another way, and Hollywood needs to know about it just as much as anybody else… #spreadtheword #naprotechnology

There is a Season

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Married 8 years. Friendship for 10. Over the course of time, the relationship I’ve had with Gary has evolved in so many ways. In the early days we were friends turned pen pals. Our courtship and engagement were very romantic. The first two years of marriage took a lot of adjusting on my part, and it was much harder than I expected. Most of the depth that grew out of our marriage came during the seasons when we met with moments of great struggle…when it didn’t feel like all sunshine and roses…because there was never an intention to walk away from the hardships. We plowed through them together because that’s what we vowed to one another and to God at the altar. ‘Til death do us part.

Yes, because of my broken past I would admittedly freak out inside for fear that my husband would one day leave me. But I needed to trust that God was present enough in his heart to inspire Gary to choose me and our kids each and every day of his life. And he has. Believe me, I tried to warn him about the mess he was going to marry. And he completely understood the nature of my physical illness as well – even better than I did. He was fully accepting of everything I was because he hoped and prayed that I would also embrace him with all his virtues and vices, too.

It was important that we were totally open and truthful in the beginning. Before we got married, there was nothing hiding behind closed doors. At least nothing major. Except the fact that he absolutely loved food, and I couldn’t cook like he did. He had a vague idea that I wasn’t great in the kitchen, but he did tell me that he ate anything. I think that still caused pretty significant anxiety at first because I felt the need to apologize every time I made a meal. But we weren’t about to break up over my lack of cooking skills. I’m grateful that Gary was patient enough to coach me through and put up with me yelling questions at him during meal prep (which I still do).

Now having 4 kids, we need to make more of an effort to share one-on-one time together, but the teamwork it takes for us to raise our children gives me security that our marriage is solid. Every once in a while we’ll steal away for a date night, and I always appreciate his displays of affection. I did have to let go of my expectations that the frequency of our quality time would equal what it once was before parenthood. Of course that changes. It definitely requires self-sacrifice to persevere through times when demands of responsibility are high. Knowing, however, that we can weather through storms of stress and conflict when they come has consoled my heart like nothing else.

Okay, let’s flip the switch for a second and do some faith integration…

I remember a conversation with my cousin Jaymee when I was still single. Already married with four kids, she said, “Cherish your time in adoration, B.anne. After you get married, you won’t have that luxury anymore of visiting Jesus whenever you want to.”

I held fast to her advice because it was true. Gone are the late nights at St. Dominic Savio’s Adoration Chapel and the hours spent at St. Peter Chanel with just Jesus and my journal. Does this go to say that my family life has diminished my relationship with Jesus? Not at all. Just as the conversations with my first True Love were once upon a time lengthy and uninterrupted, so were the ones with my husband. We could also do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. While I am not able to frequent the Blessed Sacrament as often as I used to, I still take Jesus with me into everything I do and to every single place I go. And I do the same (in a sense) with Gary. I think about him when we’re not together. He’s very much a part of me when I’m with the kids and when I’m meeting with my clients.

So I don’t need to be incredibly disappointed about the limitations within my marriage and my relationship with Jesus. But wrapping up this entry makes me realize that I do need a date with my husband some time soon…and a good long visit with Jesus. 🙂

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To read more about what we all can do to strengthen our marriages, please check out this article, “Keeping It Together: Advice from the Trenches” by Pete Vere

App for Life

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It was such a great privilege to be part of this App for Life promo video. When my sister Roselynn told me she was pregnant at 16 years old, I didn’t know how to speak up for the life of her unborn baby. She said she was thinking about abortion because a friend of hers recommended it, and her boyfriend had the money to pay for it. Of course she was scared and didn’t know what to do. After talking to my mom, Roselynn decided to keep the baby and sadly lost little Jocelyn in miscarriage. What love our mom showed to her in the midst of family hardship, even as we struggled with our dad’s illness and his eventual passing that same summer of 1995. We are so glad that my sister chose life because an abortion would have not only killed my niece but also caused Roselynn more emotional pain on top of everything she was already dealing with.

Now as educated Catholics, we understand how valuable the life of each human being is from the very moment of conception until natural death. No matter the circumstances, it is not up to us to determine when a person’s life should end. When we get the notifications through the App for Life to pray for these pregnant mothers and their babies in crisis, we don’t know how difficult their situations are. We have no details about whether they are married or not, whether it is their first pregnancy or their fifth. All we know is that they need our prayers…so we pray.

We pray that Jesus will give them the courage to choose life for their children and that they will get the support and resources necessary to either grow their family or allow their babies to be adopted by generous and loving couples. The App for Life has become part of our family culture. And I invite you to make it a part of yours, too.

Please download it onto your phones and offer your intercession for life. Donate if you can. Volunteer when you are able. Join the movement. Change the culture. Help save lives. The next generation depends on it.

Because 56 million lives in the U.S. alone have already been taken.

It’s time to take a stand. #prolife

A Beggar’s Heart: A Short Tale of a Soul Called Forth

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Once upon a time, there was a disciple of Jesus. He was a good disciple – quiet, unassuming, and humble. Given the name Azarel (“God helps”) by his father, he was raised with lofty expectations to do in his life what many others could not. The bar was set so high that Azarel always fell short. Nothing he did was ever good enough, and an immense fear of failure quickly took root in his heart. But the day he met Jesus inspired an openness he had never experienced before…a yielding towards something much greater that made him want to be more than he thought he could be.

There was never anything Azarel lacked growing up. Yet meeting this man who could calm storms on command, heal the sick, and raise the dead led him to realize a deep emptiness in his heart. Just as many others did before him, Azarel left what he had to follow this Jesus of Nazareth.

But when His Lord was crucified, it seemed all was over. At least to everyone except one: her name was Mary of Nazareth, mother of the Christ. Azarel watched her eyes after they rolled the stone in front of the tomb. No longer were they focused on the suffering her Son had endured, the humiliating death he had died, or even the place where the disciples had laid His body. The eyes of Mary appeared to be waiting for something. There was a peaceful hope no one else could understand.

Not until three days later.

After the miraculous resurrection, Jesus had spent the next forty days visiting His friends and consoling His mother. It was a time of great preparation for still another departure; one so mysterious that when it finally happened, even the Apostles could not believe what they had seen together with their very own eyes.

Ascension.

Into the heavens He went, and there they were…suddenly without Him again. Azarel remembered Jesus’ last words to them before He left: “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The promise. What did the Father promise?

So young and inexperienced, Azarel couldn’t even begin to interpret the Lord’s parting message. All he knew was that he didn’t want to leave the others. He especially didn’t want to leave the Blessed Mother because,
unlike the disciples who were scared and confused, Mary brought a comforting presence to them all.

Nine days.

With each passing moment, Azarel’s anxiety was countered with joyful anticipation. They all felt a stirring in the air. The Apostles in particular had drawn from Mary’s encouragement. Each one of their questions about the promise received the same response, “Just trust Him. Wait and pray as He told you.”

Wind. Fire.

What was this happening in their midst? Mary knew. She stood there, unmoved by the commotion. “She is not afraid,” Azarel thought to himself. “The way that she is receiving this gift is not a new experience for her. She has met this Spirit before.”

He was so focused on the mother of His Lord that he didn’t notice the others had left.

In her stillness she turned her gaze towards the young disciple crouched in the corner of the Upper Room. “Will you follow your brothers, Azarel?” Mary asked him as she motioned towards the door.

“Follow? Oh no, Mama. I don’t think they need me out there just yet. I’m not ready to go.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Yes,” Azarel responded, his eyes downcast.

“Of what?”

He couldn’t bear to admit it. “I don’t know.”

Mary’s shadow fell upon Azarel and she gently placed her hand on his head. “You have spent three years listening to my Son, watching Him work miracles, witnessing Him forgive sins. There is no question that many lives have been changed because He was here. He has since left us – you saw Him ascend to the Father. Now you are to be His hands and feet in the world.”

“I don’t think I can do it, Mama,” Azarel said sadly. “The Apostles were directly instructed by Him. The other disciples sought His attention and were formed to be much better leaders than I am. I’m not sure if Jesus even noticed that I was around half the time.”

“Oh but He did. Look.” Mary brought her right hand in front of Azarel’s face and resting just above it was a burning flame.

“Your hand!” Azarel gasped. “It’s on fire!”

“No, my dear. This is the Gift…the Promise we were praying for,” Mary explained. “Everyone had the same outpouring and each one was given the Holy Spirit. Including you.”

“So what am I to do with this Gift?”

Guiding Azarel to his feet, she commanded, “You need to go. Join the others. You have been given a great mission to proclaim the kingdom. Do not worry about what you are lacking. Jesus has empowered you with all that you need.” Still sensing his fear, Mary took the flame and covered his heart with her hand, “The Spirit of Love is strong in you. There is no doubt that your faithfulness will require sacrifice. Allow Him to purify you and lead you to greater courage.”

“Thank you, Mama. But would you come with me?” he desperately pleaded.

Removing her mantle, Mary placed it carefully around his shoulders. “Take this with you. It will protect you well.”

Azarel nodded obediently.

“God be with you. It is time.”

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“Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”
– Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day

My Portion is the Lord: A personal reflection

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As soon as we walked into the rectory, my eyes were welling up with tears. I’m not typically a super-emotional person, but when something special tugs at my heartstrings, it’s hard to hold the waterworks in. This is what made me cry:

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It’s a painting of St. Thérèse and her family. ALL OF THEM. Mom, Dad, the Little Flower, her sisters who became nuns, and her other siblings who died in infancy/childhood. I was so touched to see how the artist honored every single person in the Martin family, especially the little ones…and here we were to speak at the retreat about our own babies who had gone to Heaven.

What a comfort it was to have her so present with us! From the very beginning of my career as a teacher to my own vocational discernment…novena after novena, I would ask St. Thérèse to pray for me, and just as she promised, she showered down roses upon me in so many different forms. This was yet another way of letting me know she was still walking with me…

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Seven and a half years after our first baby died, we described the loss as if it happened yesterday. It was an amazingly beautiful experience…to stand in front of these couples who knew exactly what we were feeling in our grief…to see their tears and feel their pain as if it were our own.

Other stories followed from those who knew similar heartache but were called to adoption and valuable service to the greater community. If we just unite ourselves with Our Lord in His complete surrender at Gethsemane and Our Blessed Mother in her Fiat…how good God is as He opens doors and gifts us with blessings beyond our wildest dreams.

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How we prayed for each one of them…for the husbands and the wives…and also for an openness to share again in the future so others will know that they are not alone. Praise God for inspiring Jack and Katrina Crow to organize the whole day. On so many levels, it was no easy task. I wish there was a retreat like this when we lost Little Gary. Even moving on with our lives can be agony at times…not because I am ungrateful for the four children we do have with us, but because our family is separated. This longing to be reunited with our babies reminds me that this world is not our home…that one day we will be filled with nothing but joy and the longing will be no more. Until then, we set our eyes and hearts on Jesus with the hope that we can live and love as He did in order to make this reunion possible.

When all was said and done, I was so grateful for my husband’s support. Preparing for this talk opened up a floodgate of emotions, and I learned so much not only about myself, but also about Gary. We are definitely stronger because of the sacramental grace God blessed us with when we got married. The ebb and flow of life isn’t always smooth sailing, and things truly do not happen as you expect them to. I am incredibly privileged to journey with this man who knows how to navigate the waters and console me in the storms. Thank you, Gary, for holding my hand through it all…

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“It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay.”

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Gary and I are going to speak at a retreat this weekend for couples struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. I personally have never had any problems getting pregnant; my issue has been staying pregnant.

We lost our very first baby. And our fourth…our fifth…and our eighth.

I wrote this entry on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 – the day after our little boy’s body left mine. He lived for about 5 1/2 weeks and I loved him with my whole heart. He was the baby who first made me a mother…

There is no pain greater than losing a child. It doesn’t matter how young or old the child was, or whether you ever got to see him or hold her. He was still your baby. She was still your child.

I knew there was life growing inside of me even before the test read “Pregnant”. And somehow I knew when that same life had gone, leaving me with an immense feeling of sadness I had never known before. I tried to stay hopeful, but I knew. We wouldn’t get to meet our baby in July. Our reunion would have to wait until the Eternal Someday.

Last night, the worst had passed. However, the events of the day unfolded before I even opened my eyes. It began with a dream – we were holding a baby boy, who looked much like my nephew Jacob…but after sometime I realized it was our baby boy, and I felt so complete with Gary and my son. We were together – so happy and peaceful, enjoying each other’s company just as any other family would.

Then I awoke to the symptoms I had been hearing of…facing the fear I dreaded the most…trying to prepare myself for something I felt would inevitably come. Gary and I had talked about it. We even gave the disclaimer when we shared the good news that there would be risk. But as much as you try to prepare, you really can’t. It still hurt. It still broke my heart, and it broke his, too.

At least we got a picture. Our doctor was able to find the baby in the ultrasound this time, but he warned us that I was probably already in the beginning stages of a miscarriage. He gave us a copy of the scan as a memento of our baby, and he said that we would look back at this time five years from now and be grateful for the support we gave each other through such a difficult circumstance.

We struggled with the painful emotions of loss throughout the day, trying to come to grips with the reality of it all. I cried. Gary cried. Our family had been crying tears for us, knowing what it felt like to also lose little ones. It came to the point where I didn’t think my heart could feel any emptier. I couldn’t help but be sad, even if I tried to be strong. Nothing anyone could say or do would bring the baby back to life, and it felt like this feeling would never go away. My insides were screaming so loudly but all I could do was cry, until I heard his voice.

“It’s okay, Mommy. It’s okay. Don’t worry, Mommy. Everything will be all right.”

His little soul spoke to mine because God knew that it was his voice I needed to hear at my deepest point of despair. The sobbing calmed as Gary and my niece Leilani held me close, and I told them that the baby was talking to me.

It was then that we named him “Little Gary”.

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Our baby helped me through the emotional and spiritual pain so that I would be able to endure the physical pain that would soon follow just an hour later. For an hour and a half, I waited and prayed through the whole ordeal under the care of my family and the specialized coaching of my sister Emeline. Everything she said would happen did. I don’t know what I would have done without them all.

After it was all over, Gary and I sat with each other on the hallway floor and thanked God that it was done. As hard as it was, the whole day couldn’t have gone more smoothly, considering. And we attribute it to the mercy and love of God poured upon us through the prayers of our family and friends who have lifted us up every day since they found out about the pregnancy.

I realized last weekend as I sat at the funeral Mass of my cousin’s friend Audrey, her husband Damian, and their two little girls Elise and Gianna (who Audrey was carrying in her womb), that life on earth is so temporary. There’s nothing about it that we can completely control. In the homily, the priest said that sometimes you find a rose that buds but never blooms, as so it is also in the garden of souls. We never understand why a life doesn’t get to run its full course but we can only trust in the grace that God has given for that life to live at all.

I had long looked for roses as signs throughout my faith journey, and it comforted me to hear Father use St. Therese’s expression of the “garden of souls”. It was on that Saturday that my heart was enlightened to know…

Our baby – Little Gary – is our rose.

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And what of the other three? Garrison, Mercy, and Christiana… I have nothing tangible to hold on to and remember them by, except for the distinct signals from my body and the deep knowing in my heart that they were here with me…alive. And then suddenly they were gone.

Our oldest daughter Meleana (now 6) is very aware of her siblings in Heaven. She talks about them, draws pictures of them, and understands that we will see them later on when God calls us home.

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I recently told her about the new sister she has who also waits for her and prays for us every day, just as the others do. So there is yet another little Dyogi soul – the one I couldn’t deny when I sat teary-eyed watching Heaven is for Real as Colton Burpo hugged his sister who had no name.

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A million questions run through the heads of family members, friends, and strangers alike about the size of our family. “Aren’t you done yet?! How can you handle them all? Are they all yours? Four?!?!”

If they really want to know, I smile and answer: “I don’t know. By the grace of God. Yes, they’re all mine. And actually…I have eight.”

Some people just don’t understand what it took to bring into the world the children that they see…