Enter “Mama Hawk”

Time and again have I heard parents openly express their fears when it comes to raising girls. Fathers half-jokingly declare that the day their daughter brings a boy to the house, they will either be cleaning a shotgun…inviting 20 of their closest friends over for a panel interview…or digging a hole 6 feet deep in the corner of the backyard.

It is inherent in the heart of a daddy to want to protect his little girl. Thoughts projected into the future spark anxiety about the loss of her purity and the possibility of teenage pregnancy. On our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific last summer, Gary and I complimented a man boldly wearing a shirt that read “D.A.D.D.” (Dads Against Daughters Dating). Yeah, we thought it was pretty cool, too.

Something happened the other day, however, that woke me up to the harsh reality of society’s double standard when it comes to boys. I always knew that many parents did not exercise the same vigilance with their sons. Boys seemed to have more freedom. Certain behaviors were more acceptable among males than females. I’d worked in co-ed schools for most of my teaching career and witnessed these differences first-hand. But never had it struck the depths of my soul until my own child was affected.

A few days ago, I took our four little ones to the playground where some middle school kids happened to be hanging out. My two-year-old son Kali couldn’t keep up with the girls so he circled the play structure, making his way up a side ladder. A young boy of about 12 coached him up and cheered him on as he reached the top. I thanked the boy for his encouragement and watchful eye.

Ten minutes later, this same boy says to Kali, “Hey, tell your mom you learned a new word. #%@!”

Oh no, he didn’t. But, yes, folks…he did. And the junior high teacher in me let him have it. “EXCUSE ME! We do NOT say that word in our house, and YOU shouldn’t either!”

Thank God that Kali was totally oblivious to anything that boy said to him. I was unquestionably angry for a good while, but then I started feeling sorry for him. Who knows what kind of background this kid had with the barrage of negative influences leading him to think that trying to taint the innocence of a toddler would be funny.

All of a sudden, the whole incident became my day’s meditation. Sure, our girls need to be guarded…but so do our little boys. They are introduced to impurity at a much younger age and at a much more aggressive intensity than the girls are. “Locker room humor”, pornography, relationship conquests – all seen as normal in the lives of our men – find their roots in the culture they grew up in as children.

It makes my insides churn.

I always intended to raise all my kids with the same morals, rules, and expectations regardless of their gender. They are taught to love God and to see everything He made as good and beautiful, including their bodies. Other people are to be respected and treated with the dignity they were created with. And anyone who has ever heard Gary and I speak about courtship knows that we will do our very best to help them understand the nature of sacrificial love and all that a lifestyle of chastity entails.

It is our God-given duty to shield them from harm, both physical AND spiritual. To protect the body and neglect the soul would only lead them down a tragic road laden with unnecessary heartache and suffering. But our family will not be enclosed in a “box” completely separated from reality. That’s not the life God calls us to live. Gary and I will decide together how to educate them about the world…about the way that it is and the way God intended it to be.

We want them to be salt and light. We want them to reach out to those in need. We want them to know that they have a great mission only they can fulfill. Their foundation will be the life and example of Jesus Christ…the One who was sent to love those who did not know love…to convict those whose hearts were hungry for the truth…and to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

So when our children do encounter sin in its different forms, we pray that they will face it the same way Jesus did: with a pure heart formed in the Word of God and fully enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Will they fall? Probably. But hopefully with the faith we are passing on to them, they won’t fall as hard. If they should ever stray, at least they will know that Mother Church will always be here to embrace them with open arms.

‘Tis quite a scary time to take on the challenges of parenting, but if we do our job right, maybe our children will be numbered among the faithful whose courageous witness proclaims to the world that God’s love surpasses any fleeting pleasure…wipes away the shame of sin…and fills us with the hope of eternal life.

May this generation rise up and become the saints they were made to be. And may all my fellow parents embrace the huge responsibility in being models of virtue for their families. AMEN!

+AMDG+

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The Hidden Life…As I Now Know It

A dear friend of mine is currently discerning religious life. The very fact that she has been spending a good deal of time with the Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles has made me reflect back on my own season of vocation discernment over 10 years ago. It was this very same community that I was to join as a candidate until my lupus diagnosis closed the door in March 2003.

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I had given up a long-term relationship to follow the call of Jesus I heard so clearly the year before. I was ready to sacrifice the treasured time I spent with my family and friends. I wouldn’t be able to come and go as freely as I pleased. And my love for eating out? Now that had to go, too. Examining all the attachments I had and asking God for the will to let them go was an incredibly painful cleansing process, but looking back, it was something I had to do in order to prepare me for the ultimate Plan that He had in store for me.

Interestingly enough, the Lord was also asking me to release my desire to be a Carmelite Sister. The one pursuit I had that required me to let go of all else, I needed to surrender into His hands as well.

Why?

Because instead of becoming a bride of Christ, I would marry the man who would love me as Jesus loves His Church.

Instead of waking up at 5am for Morning Prayer and meditation, I would rise at 3am for early morning feedings and diaper changes.

Instead of wearing the brown Carmelite habit as an outward sign of my commitment to Jesus, I would tote my four little children around everywhere I went speaking volumes to the world of openness to life and trust in God’s providence.

Instead of gathering in community with my fellow Carmelite Sisters, I would find fellowship with other women working to build the kingdom of God as homeschooling moms and Creighton Model Practitioners.

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Instead of living a vow of chastity through celibacy, I would develop a ministry dedicated to promoting chastity in the single life, courtship, and married life.

Instead of retreating into meditative prayer, I would find His presence in the hustle and bustle of everyday life…and then go on to blog about it.

Instead of basking in the glorious sounds of harmonious melodies resounding from the choir loft, I would drive through freeway traffic with an SUV full of kids crying at all kinds of pitches…each taking turns to fill the silent pauses…with one child bearing the cross of a fever, quietly praying that the ride home would just go faster so they all can get some relief (which happened today, by the way…ironically on our way back from the Sacred Heart Retreat House).

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THIS IS WHY.

In the summer of 2003, I didn’t understand. Mother Angelica held my hand, looked me in the eyes, and told me to pray. I said to another Poor Clare nun at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery that all I knew was that I wanted to teach. I didn’t know if God was calling me to be a sister anymore, but I couldn’t see how it was going to happen if I was sick. I knelt in the chapel at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Plock, begging Jesus to help me believe that there was a purpose for my life. “Iesu, Ufam Tobie” (Jesus, I trust in You) became my mantra for the rest of that pilgrimage to Poland.

Now…I get it.

My heart will always be Carmelite. I will spend the rest of my days seeking Him in the desert, but my contemplation will be on the lives of our Lord and our Blessed Mother as they are revealed to me here – exactly where I am planted. This little flower will give God the glory that is due to Him alone for the amazing blessings He has worked so perfectly in my life.

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And I glance behind me, not with sadness, but with a smile…because He has been good to me. So very good…

+AMDG+

My Journey to Bethlehem

Well…I’m not REALLY going to Bethlehem.

On July 13, I began the preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary using Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. I made my very first consecration in 2002 and have renewed it repeatedly over the years, but this time I experienced a much deeper connection to our Blessed Mother because now I am both a wife and mother. I have also switched roles with my husband and become the full-time homemaker. And I’m PREGNANT.

I was expecting my re-consecration day (August 15 – the Feast of the Assumption of Mary) to arrive with this monumental epiphany accompanied with profound revelations about the new and ever-growing responsibilities I have taken on. But, no…it was very quiet on God’s end…probably because it was very noisy on my end.

Being a Holy Day of Obligation, we needed to go to Mass – and we did. However, I had to take the kids without Gary because he had already started work at LMU and was going to catch a Mass in LA. So…we were late. Really late. It was the second week he was working, and these were some long hours he was putting in. I don’t adjust to major changes very quickly, so I was tired…overwhelmed…and spent in every which way possible.

The one thing that helped keep me going was my “FIAT”.

No, not the car.

It was the “YES” I had given to God, to my husband, and to my children to accept wholeheartedly the place reserved for me in the home during our kids’ most formative years. This was a big decision and a huge transition for us to make as a family, and it was something I wanted since I was carrying Meleana in my womb six years ago.

But, let me tell you… This is no easy job. I have a belly the size of a basketball, currently starting my 33rd week with baby Jean-Paul. It is now my job to take food orders throughout the day…homeschool our two girls…change Kali’s diapers…wash dishes…cook meals…clean…do laundry…take them all grocery shopping…run errands for the family…and get myself (still with the 3 kiddos) to all my prenatal appointments. Oh, and of course there are days when they’re sick, and I have to clean up “other stuff”.

On top of all that, it’s HOT.

There would be nights when I was so exhausted, I would cry. I missed having Gary here all the time to talk to and help with the kids. He’s been going through his own adjustments with an incredibly rigorous practice schedule and a trying commute, so I tried to hold down the fort as best as I could without too much complaint.

After a while I couldn’t hold the frustration in anymore, and I needed to find balance for the sake of our marriage…our family…and my own sanity.

The consistency of my prayer routine rooted my relationship with God, and it gave me the courage to be honest with my husband about what I needed. Now that we’re both used to the daily grind, it’s a little easier to carve out the time to check in with each other. Gary has been great about sharing the household duties, as time permits, and taking care of a sometimes fussy Kali when I just need a full night’s sleep after a challenging day.

As much of a roller coaster that the last few weeks have been, I have not once regretted the choice we made to do this. It was time.

It’s always an incredible comfort to know that my husband understands what I’m going through (apart from the pregnancy). He devoted five years to these little ones, and they all truly were his priority. Everything I do now, he did, too. So when he comes home from work and I look frazzled, he knows why. On the days when I share our small victories and lessons that the kids are learning, he is also able to appreciate them all right along with me.

So what does this have to do with Bethlehem?

Around this same time in her pregnancy, Mary hopped herself with her growing belly on the back of a donkey and rode some 100+ miles away from home so that her husband would not have to travel alone to his birthplace for the required Roman census. She did not worry about where or when she would give birth. She didn’t even give a second thought to the discomfort she would endure for the last trimester…again, on the back of a DONKEY.

There was no air-conditioned SUV. No restaurants to stop at. No hospitals in case of an emergency. When they arrived at their destination, there wasn’t even a clean, comfortable place for them to stay.

All the while, she knew that the child in her womb had a very special purpose, and whatever God led her and Joseph to do in each and every moment would play an important part in the Plan for her Son.

It was TRUST and OBEDIENCE at their finest.

Although my own journey does not completely mirror that of Mary’s, I am realizing more and more how close she really is to me as I live out God’s will in these days. I am called to faithfully and prayerfully support my husband. I must put my complete trust in the Lord to care for all our needs. If He should summon us out of our comfort zones, I have to obey Him without fear because His plans are always good and perfect. And should I be graced with difficult moments, I will choose to offer them up so that Jesus Christ Incarnate will reveal Himself to each one of my children, as we teach them about His merciful Love and the eternal Truth handed down to us through His Church.

I will reach Bethlehem. And then I will make my way to Nazareth…Galilee…Jerusalem…and Calvary.

When all is said and done, there will be Heaven…and that will be the final reward.

+AMDG+

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“As for me and my household, we will serve The Lord.” (Joshua 24:15c)

Love Language

I happened to stumble upon a remake of this video earlier this week, and it totally melted my heart.  Mind you, when I was younger I’d never been one to gravitate to sappy stories because I grew up watching Star Wars and Voltron, but ever since I fell into my own love story I’ve grown to appreciate displays of real authentic love and the heroic pursuit of a woman’s heart.

What may be seen by most as huge obstacles in a relationship are accepted and fully embraced…and even still seen as BEAUTIFUL.

Watch this…you’ll see what I mean.

+AMDG+

“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”
― Bob Marley

My Secrets to Surviving This Journey Called Life – #1 PRAYER

Some friends recently asked me about my daily prayer routine, so I thought I’d also share with you what keeps me afloat and fuels my days…

There was a period of time when all I could cry out to God was, “Jesus, help me!” Very much like Peter begging the Lord to save him from drowning, I was desperately seeking the hand of God to pull me out of the raging sea. My sister chuckled when she noticed the prayer bouncing around my computer screen – it was that much a part of my life.

Fortunately I’m in better times, but I still need that constant communication with my Maker, especially because I know I can’t go through life spiritually blinded. So I start my day with the following:

• MORNING OFFERING – I’ve been praying this for about 7 years every day both when I wake up and first thing in the school day with my students. It’s a beautiful prayer that helps me give to Jesus everything that is going to happen in my day so that each moment becomes a gift back to Him, even if I go through difficult times. You can find the prayer here: http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/morning-offering.html

• LITANY OF HUMILITY – I fell in love with this prayer back in 2002 and recently started including it in my morning ritual after hearing the suggestion from Catholic speaker and former model Leah Darrow. Now this is definitely a transformative prayer because it helped prepare me for situations that would have otherwise broken and discouraged me. Instead of dwelling on the hurt I felt, I offered it back to Jesus and thanked Him for the opportunities to humbly suffer for love of Him. I cannot recommend this litany enough for the graces and virtues that flow through it! You can find the litany here: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/humility.htm

• Meditate on the DAILY MASS READINGS on my iMissal app – I slowly and prayerfully read through these “lectio divina” style…asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me in the words of Scripture. Once a verse stands out among the others, I copy it and share it on my Facebook page!

• MUSTARD SEED REFLECTION from Matthew Kelly – Emailed from Dynamic Catholic (you can check out their website dynamiccatholic.com and subscribe to receive the emails). These quotes often relate to experiences we all go through on a day-to-day basis and make the Gospel message more tangible for today’s Catholic-Christian.

• FACEBOOK NEWSFEED – Only if I have time…this is extra…I totally flooded my Like Pages with Catholic ministries, organizations, homeschooling groups, inspiring priests/evangelists/speakers so I get a lot of good stuff on FB to encourage me throughout the day.

…and then at some point during the day (it was usually on my morning commute to work…now it’s whenever I have a 15-minute block of quiet time) I pray the Rosary, give thanks before each meal, visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament after I’m done seeing Creighton clients in the evenings. This is in addition to the numerous occasions I have to lift up any physical pain I experience for loved ones or others I know who need conversion.

And this is my current bedtime routine (after praying with Gary and the kids):

• THE POWER OF A PRAYING WIFE by Stormie Omartian – A little devotional book one of my clients gave me – I write my own personal prayer for Gary in the book, too! I love these short prayers because they truly focus in on all the details of my husband’s life. I has kept me united in spirit with him in a way that we’ve never connected before, as I’ve asked God to cover and bless everything about him and what he goes through that I may not understand or even know about.

• IMITATION OF CHRIST by Thomas a Kempis – I’m also trying to read more classic spiritual books, and this one was both one of St. Therese’s favorites as well as my dad’s. I use the iPieta app so I can copy and paste the tidbits that really strike my heart. I have a Facebook album of quotes for each chapter.

• 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY: Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary by Fr. Michael Gaitley – It’s an AMAZING book jam-packed with spiritual gems from some of my favorite saints! I made a FB album for this, too! Not only is this helpful for me to look back on when I need to revisit the messages, it becomes a spiritual “memory book” of sorts for me and keeps me accountable to doing the meditations every day.

The Evening routine is the one that evolves depending on what I need at the moment. When I’m finished with these books, I’ll need to search for other devotional reading that will speak to the particular circumstances I am dealing with.

When things get really bad, I just keep saying His name, “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus” through my tears because it is the name of Jesus and only His name that can deliver me out of darkness and despair.

Prayer is the life-blood of my soul. If I decided to stop praying, my spirit would shrivel up and waste away, very much like a neglected plant without water or a body without breath. It looks like a lot, but it only takes about 15 minutes at most to get through the Morning routine and just as long for the Evening prayers. It’s not realistic for me to get in a solid uninterrupted Holy Hour like I did when I was single and going through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, but now that I have my own children it’s nice for them to see me praying throughout the day and keeping my personal relationship with Jesus a priority.

In the past, it was hard for me to develop a regular prayer schedule. Working at a Catholic school helped since we had to pray certain prayers at certain times, but I knew that I needed something for me…something I could do on my own apart from my job so that I could more clearly hear God’s voice in my heart. It was a gradual working up to what I do now – very much as it would be when you start exercising – but these prayers and meditations really do give me the peace and the strength I need to carry out His will in all aspects of my life.

So if you’re thinking about getting a routine together, start simple and do what your heart calls for. The important thing is that you are consistent. Don’t stop praying just because you don’t feel like it because you’ll fall back into that spiritual funk really quickly, and it’s hard to get out of when you’ve given it up for so long. Before you know it, you’ll notice a difference in how you react to life’s challenges…you’ll be more aware of those daily blessings and miracles that happen all around you…and you’ll see the fruits of your prayers in every relationship that you have.

LIFE IS SHORT. PRAY HARD.

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A Love Uncalculated

he loves me daisy“He loves me…he loves me not…he loves me…he loves me not…”

The image of the teenage girl plucking at the fragile petals of a daisy, wishing and hoping that this special boy really does love her, leaves us with the notion that the measure of love is randomly determined by…uh…Mother Nature?

It seems so absolute. He either loves her or he doesn’t. Completely or not at all. And what exactly defines the love she is looking for? If he doesn’t really and truly love her, and she ends up with a daisy that tells her he does…will that change anything? If the daisy tells her he loves her not, will she stop loving him?

Oh so many questions!

After 7 years of marriage, I can look back and remember those times when I would wonder about my husband’s love…doubt it…challenge it….even lose faith in it. Most of the time, it wouldn’t be related to anything he did in particular. I was just afraid that if I let myself love him completely, he wouldn’t reciprocate with the same amount of love that I was giving him.

Ridiculous, I know…especially after I’d already said “I do” and committed to the whole “‘Til death do us part” deal. And if you happened to read Part One of our story, you’ll notice that he was the one taking the huge risk with me not loving him as much in return.

So why couldn’t I trust that the man I married would pour his whole heart and soul into our relationship when he had proven time and again that he would sacrifice himself in so many ways just to win me over?

I was way too BROKEN. So broken that I lived imprisoned in my fear. I knew I was blessed by Gary’s presence in my life, but I projected every hurt I’d ever experienced in the past onto him. I tried to tell him what a mess I was, but for some crazy reason, he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and this baggage I couldn’t get rid of.

Within our first few years together, I could see that it was a burden for him during those times when he didn’t know how to help me. But regardless of my insecurities, he would still smile and hold me and tell me he loved me. When I wake up crying from nightmares, he never fails to even apologize for being a jerk to me in my dreams when he – in reality – did nothing wrong. Yes, he does this…until now.

I used to look for reasons for him to walk away. I’d tell him that his life would be so much easier if he picked someone who wasn’t sick…who wasn’t so conservative in her beliefs and her lifestyle…who made more money…etc., etc. He would have gotten more uplifting praise than biting criticism from other people if he ended up choosing another woman who would climb the ladder of success right along with him.

And Gary – being Gary – would only chuckle and say, “But I love you, Babe. And if I married someone else, I don’t know if I’d get to Heaven.”

The last conversation like this happened two years ago, around the time Kali was born. Since then, I made a commitment to give my husband an uncalculated love. Because it was always my default to look for things going wrong in our marriage, I prayed to God to help me see what was going right. Because I easily got hurt and would hold grudges for three days at a time, I told myself that once he said, “I’m sorry,” I needed to respond with a sincere “I forgive you” and really mean it. Because I had the habit of nitpicking at his faults, I needed to compliment him for all the amazing things he was already doing to grow into the man he was made to be.

I had to stop asking myself if he loved me. I had to stop asking him why he chose me. I just had to stop and LOVE HIM without trying to measure the amount of love I thought he was giving me.

After all, if I want him to stick around everyday for as long as we both shall live, I have to show him the respect that his dignity calls for…not because he deserves it, per se…but because he was created by God. A gift. A treasure for me to cherish forever. He has taught me so much about myself and my faith that I really don’t think I would have healed as wholly without his daily presence in my life, constantly reminding me of God’s uncalculated Love.

And if ever I am tempted to think that Gary doesn’t love me as much as I love him because of something he did or didn’t do, I can’t withhold my love from him and wait for him to “shape up”. That’s not how Jesus loves. Jesus knows that after we repent, we’re still going to fall and fail Him. He doesn’t count how may times He had to forgive our sins, and He doesn’t tell us that He’s tired of giving us so many chances. He doesn’t regret sacrificing His very life to save us…just so we can be with Him for all eternity in Heaven.

That’s how I need to love my husband, with the heart of Jesus. Because God knows – and so does Gary – that I’m not perfect, either…

+AMDG+

unconditional-love“The real power is love, that which empowers others, that which arouses action, that which no chain is able to hold back, for even on the Cross or on the death bed one is able to love. One does not need youthful beauty, nor recognition or approval, nor money or prestige. Let love simply bloom… and it is unstoppable.” – Pope Francis

My, How Things Have Changed

I took the kids to noon Mass today, and we happened to park next to Gary.

Me: Hey, kids, Daddy’s here!

Lea: How do you know, Mommy?

Me: We’re parked next to my car…see?

Gary had come to church on his lunch break, and I was thrilled that the kids and I would get to see him. He was sitting in the back where Meleana spotted him. She and Therese wanted to join him, so at the Sign of Peace, I let them go.

There’s nothing like seeing our children in Daddy’s arms. Almost ten years ago, I never would have imagined how my heart would melt upon seeing these little ones run up to him.

During the summer of 2004, Gary would come faithfully to Monday evening Mass at St. Peter Chanel and sit in that same area because I told him he couldn’t sit next to me. And today, I was joyfully sending our daughters over to him.

On New Year’s Day 2005, Gary had to talk to Fr. Ed about beginning our courtship. And today, he was willingly returning to him for help in discerning yet another major life decision.

August 8, 2005 marked the day when Gary spontaneously proposed to me in the church parking lot. With a heart full of fear, I said I would marry him. Today, he helped me load the kids into the car and I didn’t want to let him go.

When I sat in front of Jesus in adoration after my client appointments, I “woke up” to the realization of how far we have come and how much Gary makes present the love of God in my life. Before he became my husband, he was always there – willing to be my friend…willing to love me whether or not I loved him back. Just by being who he was, Gary challenged me to give of myself and sacrifice the way I saw him give of himself to me, and later to our three children.

This is how I fell in love with him. And this is also how I fell in love with Jesus.

After getting to know Him, I came to understand that Jesus wasn’t going anywhere either. He was there to accept me for who I was, with all my shortcomings and through all the times I didn’t appreciate the love He was trying to show me. When once I was afraid to associate myself with Him…I wasn’t sure if changing my lifestyle for His sake would be worth it…I hesitated in surrendering my will to His, I now cannot imagine going back to the person I used to be.

So I can only pour out as much love as I can for both my Savior and my husband because they together have brought about a life-changing transformation within me that I will be eternally grateful for. Yes, every so often I experienced the fear of being abandoned by them. But it will not help my relationship with Jesus or with Gary if I do not trust them. If Gary is in fact supposed to be an extension of Christ’s heart as called for by his particular vocation, then I must live in confidence that the grace of God will keep him as faithful as Jesus has been to me.

So on this ordinary day, I celebrate my marriage covenant with my husband, as well as the covenant of faith that has fused me completely into the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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“Conjugal love, like romantic love, wants to be heroic; but it does not limit arbitrarily the scope of this heroism. In its desire to relate itself existentially to heroism, it will find it also in the modest deeds of everyday life, and will transform the tiresome routine of daily duties into golden threads binding oneself closer and closer to the beloved. There is in conjugal love a not of truth which is lacking in romantic love. It has been tested in the furnace of everyday trials and difficulties and has come out victoriously…. To be kind and lovable for a moment is not great feat. But to be loving day after day in the most varied and trying circumstances can be achieved only by a man who truly loves.” – Dr. Alice von Hildebrand

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

By Heather King (from Magnificat magazine, June 2013)

Recently I was walking to morning Mass in Los Angeles, with the trees and sky above, and the traffic and noise and violence of rush hour below. I kept looking up: to the birds; to a place where I could imagine it was quiet. If you get very quiet, you hear, at the very center of the universe, a pulse, a beat. You hear the birds and the honking horns, the suffering and the joy. You hear the Sacred Heart of Christ.

So in the middle of a city of millions, I decided to pray the rosary.

And praying the rosary after a couple of minutes what I “heard” was the people waiting for biopsy results, the husband to show up, the electricity to be turned back on, and I saw that these are the people who are sweating tears of blood with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I heard the tears of the teenage girl who is cutting herself, the child whose psychotic mother is forcing him to hold his hand over a gas stove, the women who are being raped, and these are the people who are being scourged at the pillar with Christ.

I heard the overworked heart of the CEO who opens his inbox to find two hundred messages, the day laborers wielding eardrum-shattering leafblowers for ten hours at a stretch, the twelve-year-old who must translate for her parents when immigration services come to the door, and these are the people who are staggering under the weight of the cross with Christ.

I heard the wife who has just discovered that her husband is having an affair with the housekeeper, the farmer who is forced to sell the generations-old family farm to a conglomerate, the playwright who has poured out his heart and soul and is panned on opening night by the critics, and these are the people who are being crowned with thorns along with Christ.

All over the world, all day, every day, people are suffering, and here comes Barry, the homeless schizophrenic and hopeless alcoholics who wanders Sunset Boulevard, one grimy hand clutching a plastic at holding his worldly belongings, the other held out in a perpetual plea for booze money. What to do in the face of such suffering? What to do with your brokenness, your weakness, your own suffering and loneliness and fear?

You give Barry a couple of bucks. You make sure to shake his hand and thank him, because this is Christ, and his heart is your heart. And you keep walking, to Mass.

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“But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.” – St. Margaret Mary

Parenthood: Why in the World Would You Do THAT?

Two-year-old Kali is just getting over the stomach flu. And for the last two days, I’ve been fighting it, too. It’s horrible when the kids are not feeling well, but when you’re sick right along with them – not to mention, 5 months pregnant – the experience can be downright miserable.

I read an awesome article yesterday by Bobby Angel who wrote about his growing anticipation for his August wedding to Catholic singing sensation Jackie Francois. He described marriage as a “big, beautiful inconvenience”. It brought me back eight years when Gary and I were approaching our own wedding, waiting for that first kiss at the altar…knowing that after traveling two very broken roads, we would actually be united in the holy sacrament of Marriage. There would be much compromise, forgiveness, acceptance, and humility that was absolutely necessary for a successful marriage – none of which is ever a “walk in the park”. In good times and in bad, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. The vows alone gave us the heads-up that it wasn’t going to be easy, but we took consolation in the strength we would receive from God to be faithful.

What does this have to do with kids and the stomach flu? A lot. The common thread that runs through these experiences is Bobby’s very carefully chosen word: “INCONVENIENCE”. It would have been easier for me to stay single. It would have perhaps been more convenient for me to somehow find my way into a convent somewhere in the world, just because I really treasured solitude. But when God creates us for a particular vocation, there is a call within our hearts that we cannot ignore. For those who prayerfully discern that call, the path is very clear.

After we got married, the next natural phase that followed was parenthood. There was a deep desire to have children, the God-given fruit of married love. When we talked about babies in our future, we often pictured ourselves cradling precious bundles of joy full of coos and playful smiles…holding our toddlers’ hands as they enthusiastically skipped towards the playground…cheering at basketball games…applauding proudly at their graduations…our eyes filled with tears at their weddings (or ordinations!). At the same time, we also accepted that motherhood and fatherhood also came with great responsibility and sacrifice. As a woman, I understood that my body would stretch and ache beyond belief as each child developed within my womb. The first few months of life with each newborn were inundated with sleepless nights, dirty diaper changes, and the mystery of reading the cries and signals that left us both baffled and exhausted. The difficult role of disciplinarian kicked in at about 18 months to 2 years old when time-outs and “I said NO” become more and more frequent.

Then there are days like yesterday when we’re rushing out the door to go to work and we have to stop to clean vomit off of the floor. It’s the times where we are as nauseous as our kids, and we need to figure out why they’re screaming. Kali told me he wanted something in the fridge but didn’t have the words to tell me exactly what it was. Milk? Cereal? Cherries? Water? And I’m crying through my frustration praying to God, “HELP ME, LORD!” All I wanted to do was sleep!

So why did we get married? And why do we even bother having more children if it’s all so…inconvenient?

The answer is LOVE.

When we truly love, we want to give. We look past our comfort, our egos, and our personal desires for the sake of another. Our greatest fulfillment lies in doing something for someone that they will never be able to fully repay. For five years, I watched my husband cast aside his own ambitions to care for our three children at home. He lost sleep, gave up regular hang-outs with the guys, and put his career on hold – all because he wanted our kids to have one of us there with them. And this summer, it will be my turn. Gary will be going back to work, and I will leave my job of 12 years as a Catholic school teacher to have our fourth baby in October and continue homeschooling the kids. It’s a HUGE transition for us. I don’t do well interiorly with big changes, but it’s for the good of our family. If we just stay close to Jesus, ask Mama Mary to intercede for us, and beg the Holy Spirit for guidance, all will be well.

For every interruption…for every challenging moment…for every trial, I will trust that God’s blessings will be even more abundant. If it means that I become less selfish and more generous, less discouraged and more trusting, less self-reliant and more dependent on grace…PRAISE THE LORD. Amen!

For Bobby’s marriage article, click here:  Marriage – A Big, Beautiful Inconvenience

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The Dyogi kids

“Yes, having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.” ~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood

+AMDG+

“Hey, you, the Superhero!”

Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!

The ordinary person made to do extraordinary things who is sitting in front of your computer right now…or lounging in bed on your iPad/phone…reading this, thinking, “Sorry, you must be talking to the wrong person, sister.”

Nope, I got it right. Think about it. Superheroes usually have very humble beginnings. Looking at these people, you would never guess they had the ability fly…leap from tall buildings in a single bound…much less save the world from evil. But they are particularly chosen and given special powers to help society, set aside for an incredible mission that must be completed for the good of all humanity.

YOU have been chosen. YOU have been endowed with amazing gifts called “charisms” that are meant to be used for the salvation of souls. In this time. In this very place. For this era that you have been born into, God wants to use you in a powerful way – to the same extent and with the same passion and intensity that He used every saint who has lived before you.

Saint? Yes, I say. You were made to be a saint! A spiritual superhero – filled with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord – who is involved in the world, not as a spectator but as salt and light. You are meant to join the ranks of St. Paul…Sts. Perpetua and Felicity…St. Patrick…St. Martin de Porres…St. Teresa of Avila…St. Damien of Moloka’i…St. Josephine Bakhita…St. Maria Goretti…St. Maximilian Kolbe…St. Toribio Romo, and the countless faithful who left the mark of Jesus Christ in both the crosses they bore and the victories they claimed for His Kingdom.

But, see, you are not supposed to be another St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, or St. Lorenzo Ruiz. You are supposed to be YOU.

On this feast of Pentecost, it is crucial for each of us to remember who we are in the eyes of God. WE ARE HIS CHILDREN. So that we are not left to our own devices, the Father and the Son sent us the very Love between them – the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity – to dwell within our hearts and set us on fire with a flame that would purify our lives and empower us with an ardent desire to spread the Gospel message in word and in deed.

St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-7, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Upon accepting this gift, we should act heroically. We should love heroically. We should help save the world from utter spiritual destruction. We should be courageous enough to risk ridicule and criticism to give to others what we ourselves have received.

The greatest encouragement we hear from Jesus Himself is that we are not alone. As He was dying, He gave to us His own Mother. He sent the disciples out to the villages two by two. He established the Church before He ascended to the Father. We have the entire communion of saints – Church Triumphant in Heaven, Church Militant here on earth, and Church Suffering in Purgatory – to intercede for each one of us in the work we are called to do.

This holy assembly is much more powerful than any Justice League, ensemble of X-Men, Superfriends, or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Amen? AMEN!

Above all, we have Jesus our Lord and Savior Himself…God Incarnate…promise to us His very presence in the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

So now is the time… Rise up, you superheroes of the Kingdom, and become who you were made to be!

+AMDG+