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. 🙂

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

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?


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.



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.


“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

Finding Christ in the Advent Season

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

(Num 24:17)

“The Good News of Christ continually renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the error and evil which flow from the ever-present attraction of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. It takes the spiritual qualities and endowments of every age and nation, and with supernatural riches it causes them to blossom, as it were, from within; it fortifies, completes, and restores them in Christ.” (CCC #2527)

As long as there are people choosing Christ, there is hope for our world…

More Than Enough

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Life in the Spirit Seminar at St. Pius V…to come back home…to my family…to my community…to my God.  During praise & worship, we sang this song. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy to sing because I was so sick, but as soon as I heard the lyrics, I gave it all I had.  Every ounce of spirit within me cried out to God – to Jesus in the Eucharist right before my eyes.  I was so aware of how weak I was…how much I needed…and I opened my heart to the Truth of who He really was.

For most of my life, I had been looking for love, for approval, for acceptance.  That search led me only to darkness and emptiness and the realization that I didn’t understand what real love was.  Because I didn’t understand it, I couldn’t fully accept it when it was being given to me, nor could I give it to those who were closest to me.

That morning, I knew in my heart that I had to believe that He was more than enough.  And for those who hear me teach and speak…for those who call me for advice…for those who read this blog…it was so important for me to believe it for them, too.  Purity of body, heart, mind, and soul can only come through the Love of God…through the accepting of the Father, Son, and Spirit who fill every void and every need.

I cried.  I cried for me.  I cried for you.  I shed tears for all of us whom God desires to draw closer to Him.  My prayer was and continues to be that we will never forget the complete fullness of God’s Love.  How very good He always is…

(Chris Tomlin)
All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

Youre my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
Youre the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me