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

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

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

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

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

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. ThĂ©rèse 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. ThĂ©rèse 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.”

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…

Celebrating Papa Joseph

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Today is the feast of St. Joseph, and I must thank him for being the epitome of everything an earthly husband and father should be. I am also grateful for his intercession because were it not for his prayers, Gary may not have been formed the way that he was after his conversion.

A friend of mine shared this beautiful video of “Joseph’s Lullaby” to Jesus. It really enters into his mind and heart as the foster father of our Savior.
What an amazing privilege it was for him to be chosen, as Our Blessed Mother was, to help raise the Son of God and teach Him everything he knew.

It was not an easy time period to live in for the Jews. They were not completely free, and the cultural and political pressures imposed by the Roman Empire surely took their toll on Joseph and Mary. But they trusted in the Father’s plan and believed in the greater mission of ushering in the kingdom of God for the salvation of all humanity. Heaven was always their focus and not once did they lose sight of it. From the moment they were each aware of His presence within Mary’s womb through the years that they would watch Him grow into adulthood, the King of kings would serve as a daily reminder to His parents that they were meant for greater things than this world had to offer..

Gary and I were talking about how desperate our society has become – hungry for power, material wealth, and self-indulgence. The thought of eternal Paradise was the only thing that kept us from hypothesizing all the despairing possibilities for our children’s future. We have to prepare them, we said. At least they will have each other, as well as the other young ones whose parents are instilling and preserving the values that yield a resilience no one person or government can destroy.

Following the example of Joseph, I watch my husband take the lead as head of our family to guide and protect as best as he can. We are not perfect by any means, but it is a great consolation to know that we can beg for the grace to walk in the footsteps of history’s most courageous husband and wife team. May we fall into the merciful arms of Jesus as we actively engage our children in the Culture of Life. There is much work to be done…saints to be made…truth to be taught. So with the long and narrow road ahead of us, here we go!

St. Joseph and Mama Mary, pray for us!

The Walk: Why, hello again, Jesus

College. Spring 1997. I thought I had it all. The friends…the cool boyfriend…rockin’ siblings…a restored relationship with my mom…a nice car…and I even held down 2 jobs while going to school so I could buy whatever I wanted. Being President of the sorority I helped found and also heavily involved in the Pilipino club, I couldn’t have dreamed up better times. Younger girls would follow me around campus and say, “Can I just be you for one day?” Sounds ridiculous, I know. But it’s true.

For the sake of this part of the story, I have to admit that from the outside looking in it seemed like I had it together – at least through the world’s eyes. Not only was I fairly accomplished and respected, I was even proud to say that I could hang at the bar with the best of them. My weekends were full of places to go and people to see. There was nothing more I could really ask for.

…until a sinking feeling cut deep into my heart and I found it completely…empty.

My boyfriend and I were walking to the parking structure one day after school. He took one look at me and asked, “What’s wrong?”

I started crying. “I don’t know. Everything’s fine. I just…hurt inside.”

Nothing bad happened. No one was responsible for my unhappiness except me. It’s not that I didn’t feel loved by the people in my life. It’s just that “all that I had” now wasn’t enough.

That night I sat down at the dinner table with my head in my hands, quiet and reserved. I wasn’t one to open up much anyway, but my mom knew. The new-found depression was written all over my face.

“I think you should come to church with me and Emeline,” she suggested.

I rolled my eyes. “We already go to church on Sundays.”

“No. You need to come to this program on Thursdays. It’s good!”

There was something different in her voice. Something I’d never heard before…as if light was shining through her words…if you could “hear” light…

“What do you do there?” I asked glumly.

“Watch videos! The speaker is excellent!”

Oh great. I was already bored at Mass. What could videos possibly do to pull me out of this funk? The fact of the matter, though, was that I really didn’t like feeling this way, and my mom seemed to be convinced that she had something I needed.

“Fine,” I answered reluctantly. “I’ll go.” Honestly, I didn’t have anything better to do. I mean, there was the Arena on Thursday nights, but the clubbing scene was getting old fast.

My youngest sister was SO excited that I’d be joining them. Emeline worked at the Christian bookstore in the mall. She would come home singing strange songs from some cartoon about vegetables and fly through novels that were thicker than my biology textbooks. This girl was like walking sunshine, and I just didn’t understand how she could be so cheery all the time. It was sheer perpetual perkiness. See, my baby sister was born to be everything I thought I could never be: obedient, studious, hard-working, loyal, and incredibly optimistic. From where I was standing, she always did everything right. So it only made sense that she became the Jesus-loving, Bible-verse-reading evangelist who wanted to set the world on fire with the love of God. Deep down I envied her, although I was so set in my ways that I never thought to follow in her footsteps. After all, I was the big sister. I knew who I was and what I was doing. Sort of.

This time, however, I was desperate.

Each passing day turned into an eternity. I finally accepted the fact that I needed help when I looked around my bedroom and noticed a slew of wine cooler bottles scattered throughout my desk and bookshelves. Who knows how long they’d been there? For months I didn’t think it was a problem. And it wasn’t like I was taking shots by myself, right?

Wrong.

In that moment, my eyes were able to see into my heart and find the reason for this growing dependence on alcohol. I was trying to drink myself into becoming someone I knew I was not. And my sister…well, apparently she didn’t need to turn to a substance to get comfortable with her identity. She had a Person.

I was curious about this relationship Emeline and my mom had developed with Jesus. I did know about Him. He hung on the crosses at church. My dad used to act out these fun Bible stories where Jesus would raise people from the dead. There was even a picture of Him in our hallway whose painted eyes would slowly follow me as I walked from the stairs to my room – especially when I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. His face was very familiar.

The thing is that Mommy and Emeline now talked to Him and about Him as if He was their FRIEND. Weird. I didn’t get it. But after going to one of those Thursday sessions in this ALPHA program, I wanted to be His friend, too. I wanted what they had. JOY…PEACE…simple appreciation for LIFE. Every Thursday I would go, and for some reason I didn’t miss the lifestyle I was leaving behind. For the first time ever, I both experienced and understood unconditional Love…the kind of acceptance I’d always longed for…even stronger than the greatest love my parents had for me.

If it wasn’t for my mom’s invitation, I truly believe I would still be wandering the world aimlessly searching for meaning in my life. Because she cared so much for my soul, she brought me to a place where I would begin to heal from my past mistakes and be forgiven for the worst sins I’d ever committed. And Emeline was my most enthusiastic cheerleader. This was typical of her – ever since she was little, she always had my back. At every performance I had, she’d yell the loudest and didn’t care who was around. If I did something, she wanted to do it, too. If I had a friend, she’d want to be their friend, too. I’d never felt more supported by anyone else before…and I took it for granted until I realized that this was when I needed her more than ever.

Now she was cheering me on towards Heaven.

God puts certain people in our families because He knows how badly we will need them. I wouldn’t have stuck through the end of the ALPHA program if Emeline wasn’t there with me. I wouldn’t have joined the Charismatic prayer group on Tuesday nights if it wasn’t for her either.

I remember driving with my sister to church one day and she was telling me about this OTHER program she attended on Tuesday nights. It was called a Life in the Spirit Seminar with talks (in person) about our faith. It sounded similar to ALPHA, but she said that – just the week before – this particular woman who spoke about the suffering and death of Jesus made it so very personal for her.

“When she was talking, I could see Jesus in front of me…bleeding and dying…just for me,” Emeline shared openly. “I was totally crying the whole time! Oh my gosh, B.anne…YOU HAVE TO GO!”

“You HAVE to go.”

That was my sister’s signature phrase. She said it to everyone with such a contagious spirit that we all were so curious about whatever it was that we “had to go to”. Emeline never second-guessed her invitations; she joyfully and unapologetically told people about Jesus and exactly where they could go to meet Him. Her zeal for the Gospel was overflowing and we somehow knew that this Living Water she was offering could perhaps quench the thirst our souls had inside for truth…for faith…for love.

This was the best gift Emeline has ever given me. Hands down.

Thanks to the combined efforts of my mom and my sister, I was at church at least 3 days out of the week and I couldn’t have been happier. It was a difficult time since I was withdrawing from the social scene I once was a part of. Friends stopped calling me to go out. My convictions got stronger and I had to pick up where my 3rd grade Catholic school girl self left off many years before. There was a lot of letting go and catching up to do all at the same time. But with Emeline by my side, it was going to be okay.

Before long, our other sister Roselynn was going to ALPHA and prayer meeting. Our cousins joined us and many others who were looking for a community of brothers and sisters in the Church. We volunteered as group leaders and speakers for both the adult ALPHA program and Youth ALPHA. I was relieved that I finally found my identity in Jesus Christ and no longer had to try living two totally separate lives. Having two feet in separate boats didn’t work for me. The path I had chosen was a difficult one, but there was comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone.

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UNFROZEN / VALOR come to HFYA Artesia!

Holy Family Young Adults brings you…UNFROZEN_VALOR

UNFROZEN: “Being The One Worth Melting For” by Marianne Soratorio Dyogi (As He Loves Ministries)

Monday, Feb. 10, 2013 @ 7:30pm

Holy Family Catholic Church (JOHN PAUL II ROOM – next to Parish Hall)

18708 Clarkdale Avenue, Artesia, California 90701

All too often we get caught up in looking for Mr./Ms. Right. Without a significant other, we sometimes feel incomplete and devalued as we long for that special someone to come along and sweep us off our feet. Yet even when we have what we want, loneliness and isolation can still set in. Marianne takes the powerful themes of the Disney movie “Frozen” and breaks down the importance of personal dignity, self-love, and sacrifice…all necessary for a fruitful relationship with ourselves, our God, and those given to us to love.

*** SPECIAL NOTE: In order to fully appreciate the lessons in this talk, it is highly advisable to see “Frozen” prior to attending. If this is not possible, please be aware that UNFROZEN will be jam-packed with references that may put a damper on your future movie-watching experience. Can’t say we didn’t warn you…

****if you’re available FEB 24, Mon. please join HFYA for VALOR: “Made for a Mission- To Protect Her, To Love Her, To Serve Her” PART 2 (Gary Rosete Dyogi) talk, same location/same time. Special 2-part series offers understanding from both FEMALE and MALE perspectives.

*For speaker bio, please visit http://asheloves.org/about/marianne-soratorio-dyogi/

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GENTLEMEN! After Marianne’s “courtship vs. dating” talk last year, many of you wanted to hear her husband’s perspective on things?
Well, HERE it is!
ALL are invited to join HFYA for PART 2 (of special 2-part) series.
GOD’S LOVE: Courtship Vs. Dating. Special talk titled:
VALOR: “Made for a Mission- To Protect Her, To Love Her, To Serve Her” by Gary Rosete Dyogi (As He Loves Ministries)

Monday, Feb. 24, 2013 @ 7:30pm

Holy Family Catholic Church (JOHN PAUL II ROOM – next to Parish Hall)

18708 Clarkdale Avenue, Artesia, California 90701

A man’s boyhood struggles can lead to young adulthood challenges in faith, relationships, and self-worth. But from these challenges comes a discovery of his potential to LOVE. From this discovery arises a new beginning in life of being faithful to God, faithful to his wife, and faithful to his family. Through it all, the virtue that keeps him committed to this mission is VALOR.
Learn how faith, love, and chivalry prepare a man to answer God’s call to marriage for a lifetime.

**if you’re available FEB 10, Mon. please join HFYA for UNFROZEN: “Being the One Worth Melting For” PART 1 (Marianne Soratorio Dyogi) talk, same location/same time. Special 2-part series offers understanding from both FEMALE and MALE perspectives.

*For Gary’s bio, please visit http://asheloves.org/about/gary-rosete-dyogi/

There’s Something About Mary

On this feast of Our Lady – Mary, Mother of God – I need to take this time to thank her for her constant prayers and guidance. So much so that I wouldn’t be married without her. See for yourself…

Gary’s grade schools: MORNING STAR Elementary School and STAR OF THE SEA Catholic School in San Francisco (titles for Our Blessed Mother)

Gary’s college: Loyola MARYMOUNT University

Gary’s devotion upon his “prodigal son” return: Daily ROSARY and Mass

Booklet given to Gary by his mom that helped him come back to Jesus:

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My name: Marianne (named after MARY and her mother St. Anne)

The picture that Gary clicked on when he found me on MySpace: (check out who’s behind me and my sisters)

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What attracted me to Gary on the day that we met in person: The ROSARY he pulled out of his pocket

My regular spot at St. Peter Chanel for Daily Mass when I was single: 3rd row in front of OUR LADY OF FATIMA

The first day of our courtship: January 1, 2005 – Solemnity of MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

The place where Gary proposed, where we prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage, and where we got married: St. Peter Chanel staffed by the Oblates of the VIRGIN MARY

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Call it chance or coincidence, but we truly believe that Mary has taken us as her children, woven her way throughout our lives, and tied us together for good. Whatever lies ahead will be covered by her mantle and cradled in her arms…where the joy will be sweeter and the trials easier to bear.

Thank you, Mama Mary. We love you!

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