Cheerful Giving

“Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:6-8)

Today I pray for:

  • a deeper appreciation for the mission I have been given to preach the truth 
  • the ability to recognize the abundance of grace from which all of my work flows
  • more cheerfulness, especially when I am tired

I gave the first of these two talks at the Holy Family Young Adult prayer meeting tonight:

  

I definitely felt the weight of responsibility addressing such a heavy topic, but I hope that the beauty of authentic self-giving love will be embraced and shared by all who understand how desperately the world needs it.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…we love you, save souls. Amen.

Imitation of Christ

“Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. 

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 4:30-5:2)

Today I pray for:

  • the ability to imitate Christ
  • the courage to live in love
  • the willingness to offer myself as a sacrifice to God

I understand that there is only so much of me that I can give to other people, so I am discerning and prioritizing for the sake of survival. It is possible to love many people, but I cannot realistically serve them all outside of the prayers I offer for them.

I do know my heart has a yearning for more authentic friendships, and I am trying to focus my efforts on those relationships that are most fruitful. 

It grieves me to realize that certain ties are not as strong as they once were, but it’s something I just need to accept so I can move forward. One day, they will know how much I love them. It may not happen in this life, and I just have to be okay with that.

  

And then there are my kids, who truly need me more than anyone else in this world. This audio of me and Kali was made a year ago, and my heart broke when it dawned on me that time is passing by way too quickly for us.  

 
My little ones are not so little anymore and the moments with them are fleeting. This is really where my focus should be. With a million and one things going on in my life, they deserve more of me than they’ve been getting. And this is where I need to start. Right now.

Dear 14-year-old Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I go…

Dear 14-year-old Self,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every day of your life matters.

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

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

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

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

In His Most Sacred Heart,
Your Older Self

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

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

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

Be ready to receive…

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/

___________________________________

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/

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

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.

20130626-020946.jpg

“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