Monday, December 26, 2011

Today, 8 years ago...

I was taking a shower as I timed the morning and how long it would take me to get ready. My family, including cousins, aunts, uncle, grandma, etc. all were leaving to spend the day in beautiful Carmel the day after Christmas. It is a favorite day trip place of ours. We grew up going there on the weekends or down for a special dinner. Walking around the exquisite and unique beach town of the Pebble Beach Lodge and golf course will always remain at the top of the most beautiful places in my mind's eye. My parents had gone to Mass and coffee. The phone rang. My sister came in bathroom as I was in the midst of showering, "Dad called and said you need to pick mom up at the Poor Clare's." (The tucked away Catholic Monastery in the hills of Pleasant Valley in Corralitos, my home town. About a seven minute drive from the house.) "You've got to be kidding me!" I think in my head as my sister gives me the chore. "I can't," I told her. "I'm still in the shower and I still have to get ready to go!" I was infuriated at my mom for pulling a last minute demand on me. "You go get her." I eventually came out the shower, my sister hadn't left and the phone rang again. My mom needed to be picked up and I was throwing a fit. My hair was sopping wet. I threw on slippers and my dad's huge windbreaker jacket. I drove to the monastery as fast as I could. I jumped out of the car opened up the large wood door. I looked inside and my mom was no where to be seen. Now I was furious. I shut the door jumped back in the car and went home. I pulled up into the driveway and my parents were getting out of their car. "What on earth happened?!!" I exclaimed. "I was in the shower, trying to get ready to leave, you called me, I left and you weren't even there!" They looked at me so puzzled. They finally asked, "Well...was anyone there?" Annoyed and frusterated I remarked, "There was some guy kneeling in the front pew." My dad continued, "Well, did you see who the guy was? You better go back." I looked at my attire, knowing it was not what I would like to remember myself in when I received my proposal, but I had no choice. I jumped back into the car and drove even faster than I did the first time. I was beaming. The sun was shining on the crisp December morning. I had the classical music station on for some reason and the VERY song I always wanted to walk down the isle to was playing - O Mio Bambino Caro by Giacomo Puccini. Isn't heaven so lovely. God is such a Lover!

I ran back into the church. Phillip turned around, thankful I returned. We greeted each other and he told me that before he could even turn around the door shut and he heard the car start and drive off. We laughed. He then continued with his proposal. We sat with Jesus in the beautiful monastery my family has been a part of and served starting with my grandparents. All of a sudden we heard voices and My dad had driven our 12 seater van with all of my siblings to spy in on any action they could view. The day continued and we met all of the family for dinner in Carmel as we celebrated the new path God had been leading us on for eight years. My heart couldn't even believe that it had finally come to pass. I truly experienced God's faithfulness to the desire of my heart that day. For He never did forget the petition I asked of Him eight years prior - that even if life continued to happen and even if I forgot about Phillip, that He, my Father would never forget that true desire of mine. And of course I never did forget about Phillip over those eight years, God was sowing much during that time in each of us, for us, for Him. Praise be to the Father! It was then, and even more so now to me, well worth the wait.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Busy Week, Some Quick Thoughts

I want to share three sentences from Janice Connell's book. They struck and stuck with me this last week. I may not have them word for word because I am just writing how I remember them. The first one was this - "We are spiritual beings enduring a physical experience". I know this is true. I talk about it often. However, two words in this phrase gave it a different weight. They are the words "enduring" and "experience". It just gave my soul a little lift when I read it, separating our spirit and body very distinctly. Reminding it that I am not made for this place and I just have to put up with it for a very short time. I just liked it.

The second sentence is - "Virtue untested is not virtue, but only theory." Powerful and self-explanatory. When virtue is tested, it is then we see what we are made of and God sees the love we profess for Him tested to see if they prove true.

The third sentence I want to spend a bit more time looking at was based on St. Monica. St. Monica was the mother of a doctor of the Catholic Church, St. Augustine. St. Augustine is studied in many educational fields because of his genius. He is known by many scholars and theologians. For those who have not heard of him, He was born in the late 300's A.D. near present day Tripoli. His mother was Monica, a woman of beauty, great faith and love for God. Her eyes always fixed on eternity. His father Patricus was a Roman citizen who was affluent, powerful, and loved frivals of the world. Augustine took after his father. He was extremely bright and loved the pleasures the world had to offer. His mother prayed fervently for her husband and her son's conversion. They both did eventually. Augustine became a pillar of faith for centuries to come. His most famous writing is "The Confessions of St. Augustine." The sentence that struck me that Janice wrote about St. Monica was this - "She [Monica] understood that the only human tragedy is the loss of an immortal soul." What perspective this sentence gives! I think of Monica telling me, a mother who's child has died, that my experience is NOT a tragedy. Unbelievable, I think. However, it's true. We mourn for all the horrendous happenings in our world. We weep, we suffer with others, we experience devastation, questioning, doubting, etc. Which is part of our humanity. It opens our eyes to others and takes them off oneself. However, when trying to look through Heaven's eyes of eternity, the only time those things become tragic are when souls are lost forever, for all of eternity with NO HOPE. This is truly something for our eyes to weep over, our hearts to break over, our minds to turn over. I think of how my family and friends who's hearts mourn for me and what has happened to us. I am truly thankful and humbled by this. However, I think how most of us know someone who's soul may be in a place away from grace. Why do we not weep more for them? What can I do? There may not always be opportunities to interact but because we live in a spiritual world, we have the chance to pray, fast, and offer sacrifice for them. These are wonderful things I have been learning more about and how to incorporate into my daily routine. I don't have to not eat a meal to give as an offering. I can offer up not putting sugar in my coffee, or honey on my peanut butter toast. I can wake up five minutes earlier than usual. I can wait half an hour later to eat my lunch. Those are all very easy ways to offer sacrifices for souls of danger of being lost - the only human tragedy. We can continue to work on these things together and strengthen the body of Christ, one part at a time.

Next Monday on the 26th, I get to share the day Phillip proposed to me because it was the day after Christmas!! Merry Christmas! May baby Jesus give you wonderful heavenly gifts!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Monday Thoughts

Since this time of Advent is the time of preparation for the birth of Jesus, for Christmas, I mentioned last week I've been focusing and learning from Mother Mary. She was and is the woman chosen above all women to carry and prepare for her Son's birth, in the flesh. Her flesh bore life for the Word made flesh. I've been reading a few incredible books right now. One is called "The Secrets of Mary - Gifts from the Blessed Mother" by Janice Connell. I have a hard time putting it down because not only does it talk about Mary and her role when she walked on earth, but her role in our present time. - today, in our hearts, home, society, the earth, and heaven. I have often written about how God uses the natural, the physical world to speak to us, His children. This is true. However, the supernatural must not be underestimated either. There have been and are many supernatural occurrences with many brothers and sisters on this earth today. One must be careful to simply regard or disregard them. Why wouldn't there be? Since Christ is alive and His Holy Spirit is among us, why would there not be such events and encounters? There are. Many choose to believe and embrace them, too many do not. I read these words in Janice's book that I have been contemplating.

"Our Blessed Mother knows us. Her love for us is total. Her words are our hope and our delight.
'You have nothing to fear little children. Rest serene upon the Heart of Jesus. He is your light, your life, your joy, your peace, your living reality. All that is not of Jesus, for Jesus, with Jesus passes away. His love is your ransom. His life is yours. Play little ones. Play in the courtyard of my joy. Enjoy my presence and my blessing.'
Wisdom is a great gift worthy of our highest efforts. The moment of our own personal Apocalypse is set. We know not the day, nor the time that each one of us will be called before the Throne of God to render an accounting of our time on earth. God's mercy is for those who fear Him. To know God is to be filled with joyful awe and wonder at the majesty of our loving God. Such is the beginning of wisdom.
Wisdom teaches us to review our past only with the light of God's mercy. We can all pray with confidence in God's mercy. He hears His children' pleas. He honor even our most modest attempts to love. God redeems mistakes and disappointments that haunt our memory. God has entrusted supernatural gifts of wondrous glory to fragile human vessels. Christ is at work in the world even if it is tarnished by some who have betrayed their human dignity. Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time. And so will He be...We all long to open an inner door and return to our Home in the depths of love and peace and holiness. The key to that door is truth. Truth is visible, but only in the Light...Truth teaches us by experience that we really must either gently surrender into God' s Kingdom of Love, or bear the grief of separation from all that is good and decent and beautiful and life-giving forever...Confusion is of the world, not of Heaven."

There are numerous points that can be touched on in that passage. I hope each of you can listen for the parts that will strike your own core personally. For me, when I read these words, I think of my own little soul, so troubled and weak. But as it sees and hears and absorbs such words, I know they are not merely words, but messengers of grace. For my small and tattered soul gets lifted, strength fills it, wonder and awe surround it, passion and thirst for Truth and Goodness from heaven arise within. Hope and joy are jumping in it, and then it happens. My soul recognizes Him immediately. My God, my Jesus has come to teach and embrace me through these grace filled words of Truth. How do I know it is Him? Because this soul of mine has been transformed a little more in this moment when Mercy itself came down from His throne to kiss it - in all its weakness and wretchedness.

How do I even begin? When I encounter the Spirit through words of Truth such as these? I hear the words of my Mother. I recognize her voice just as any child knows her mother's voice. I read where she says, "All that is not of Jesus, for Jesus, with Jesus passes away." The thought of separation from all that is "good and decent and beautiful and life-giving forever" frightens me to the depth of my being. Nothing on the earth that isn't Him, will last. When my heart loses focus (as it does) the words of our Mother turn it back. It is like I am walking thousands of feet up in the air on a rope. If I look straight ahead at my Lord I make progress on that skinny rope. But if I glance even for a moment anywhere else, or think about the fact that I'm walking on a rope high up, or get distracted with anything. I can't do it. However, when that has happened and does happened I call out like Peter, one of the twelve disciples, "Lord! Save me!" Jesus immediately answers. He sends His own precious Mother to refocus my eyes on the only thing that does not pass away - Jesus. And then the walk on the rope continues once more. No matter what is taken from any of us on this earth - spouse, child, job, money, home, parent, a dream, health, it doesn't matter because all those things pass at some point anyways. The only thing that cannot be taken is our promise of eternity, unless it is our choice to give it up. And in eternity, nothing given to Jesus by God is lost. Any love we have been given and received, we will reunite with it, or I guess I should say...with them.

And just a sweet story from last week-
Phillip and I went on our weekly date on Wednesday. Johnny had watched some of the Mass on the Catholic tv station with Phillip's mom while we were gone. (Which actually was a miracle and supernatural experience in itself .) Anyways...after the Mass was over, they show gold gates opening up to clouds and then images of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary and maybe some others appear. Phillip's mom apparently said to John, "Look Johnny, that's like heaven. Who's in heaven?" John was so excited that when we got home he said "Mom! Dad! I saw heaven on TV!" "You did?" I asked. He then went to tell of the images he saw on the TV. The Holy Spirit then used that "physical" or "natural" image to work in John's soul. John continued, "And mom, I saw Stella." I smiled and asked "You did? What was she doing?" He said, "She was doing a project." (Stella loves projects and crafts like her mom.) "What project was she doing?" I wondered. "She was drawing a picture of her with all the angels. Lots of angels." Beautiful, I thought. "Who was the picture for?" I asked just trying to see if the conversation could continue. "It was for Mama Mary." Later that night I realized it was the Eve of the Immaculate Conception. This is a BIG feast day in the Catholic Church for our Lady. Of course Stella was making a gift for Mary's special feast day. I have read in different books my mystics and others who have encountered heaven while still alive on earth, that on special feast days, all of Heaven has HUGE celebrations. Stella was preparing to celebrate. And John had no idea about the relevancy of the date. Phillip and I were so thankful for God's continuous goodness and mercy to us.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Lovely Lady Indeed

I remember as a child how drawn my heart was to Mary, the Mother of God. I remember asking my mom around the age of 4 or 5 to teach me to pray the rosary. I remember in first grade we had to learn and recite a prayer called "Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue". I remember the prayer was on this small holy card. She was so beautiful. I remember examining and studying the picture so carefully. The words touched my little soul. I can still remember the prayer pretty well even from first grade! They talked about Mary holding Jesus as a baby and what she may have done with him - sing to him, hold him on her lap, whisper things of heaven to him, listen for the sound of angels' wings, etc. Somehow the grace of those words captured me as a 6\7 year old child. I think she was starting at a young age to call me to her tender heart, as a mother does to a child. She knew the way to her Son, the way to heaven for me would be sharing her heart. Jesus asked John while He hung on the Cross, He asks us to behold His mother. He asked His Mother to behold John, her "new" son. She takes us all in as her children, Judeo-Christian or not. What does it mean for us to behold her? To behold means "to comprehend, to look upon, gaze at, used for the purpose of calling attention, to see or observe a thing or person especially a remarkable or impressive one". Christ instructed us to do this with His Mother - to look upon her, gaze, study her, to comprehend and understand her, to observe a remarkable soul, for she is used for the purpose to call our attention to her Son, to heaven.

In this road my Father has called our family on, as the mother and heart of my home, our Mother's heart has been imperative for me to behold as we both have been asked to carry the cross of the death of a child. I have mentioned in past posts sharing this with her, learning from her, beholding her on this similar path. Although I share this suffering of the heart with her, I also get to share in a New Advent. I share in a new way a part of HER Advent as we are all called to share the arrival of her Beloved Son, our Messiah, our Savior, our King of Souls. So yes, this Advent is new without Stella, I also get to share in a new way with the Mother of God, awaiting the coming of Christ, the one who brings hope to the earth and freedom in the souls and minds of humankind, who choose His path. So what does this new waiting mean for me this Advent season? I'm not sure. I walk it with trust, grace expectation, and even days of joy. I want my heart to be a ready stable for my humble King. My mother helps me prepare it, just as she prepared for Jesus' birth. I come to her and ask. I sit with her in silence and read her words. Besides the graces and joys of this Holy Season, I wait with great anticipation of a grand and special Christmas gift from Jesus, upon His arrival! As you should too. I look forward to sharing it with all of heaven and you.

"...Those that follow the ways of the world forget to listen for my voice in their adulation and self-esteem. My heart weeps for the sorrow my children heap upon themselves. Please listen for my voice. I have much to tell you. I am Queen of Angels. I am the Mother of God's children. ALlow me to carry you in my heart to the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega. Peace, little children. Only peace." (Part of prologue a quote from an apparition in "Queen of Angels - Janice Connell).

Let Mary carry you this Advent to the destination she promises!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking It Off

I am actually taking this week off. Regrouping from Thanksgiving weekend and planning our Advent traditions this week. I will resume the usual post on Monday Dec. 5th. God Bless everyone during this first week of Advent!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfectly Punctual

No matter what has been revealed to the soul, or what the flesh repeatedly denies, until we are home, we are still in captivity. I continue to experience every and all aspects of grief. Grief comes to us all in many ways. We experience death many times during our short stay on earth. Death of a loved one, death of a relationship, death of expectations, dreams, desires, death of a season in life, etc. There are many encounters of grief. We are constantly being asked to separate from things in this life. And since we are made for Home, for security, for real Love, the more we try to hold on to things that appear sturdy. It is the soul's way of crying out to its Creator, her King, trying to seek His security and stability, His Love, in mere imitations. The soul may do this multiple times until finally her search ends when she finds her Beloved, the only unmovable, unshakeable, unchanging and mighty pillar, strong enough to be steadfast for all of her uncertainties, wounds, and fears. These encounters, while on this earth, may only last for a brief moment. She seeks so ardently for a mere glance of her Home.

This search in grief can feel daunting and even impossible at times. I saw three connections over the weekend. I remembered a part from the book called "Impact of God" by Fr. Iain Matthew. It is a book based on the teachings of St. John of the Cross. He reminds those who are seeking to remember, the seeker himself is being sought after even more so. He gave the image of a hiker who has gotten lost in the woods. He searches for help endlessly, but if one looks at the larger picture, one would see a helicopter and search teams looking high and low for the one lost hiker. So first thing to remember is when we are searching for a moment with God, He is actually seeking after us even more.

The second thing brought to me was this quote about the soul by John of the Cross - "Let her not fail to pray, and let her hope, in nakedness and emptiness, for he who is good to her will not delay." Jesus does not delay. He doesn't put us off until gets around to it. Or when he is tired of hearing us moan and groan. I must remind myself of the process of all seasons He has for us and His Divine time in all of it. To continue further with that in mind, the Gospel story of Lazarus was the third thing that came to mind as I continue to have my waves of struggle with God's time of calling Stella to Him. There are times those horrible "what ifs" won't seem to stop. I was so thankful as the Scripture literally appeared before my eyes. I went to read the story word for word. It's John 11:1-44. I will pin point what spoke and comforted me.

1.) Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus, was ill. They were close friends of Jesus. They sent word to Him of their brother's illness. This is what the following verses read, "When Jesus heard this he said, 'This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God my be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" The disciples asked some questions as they were confused by the situation. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing although he waited a couple days before going to Lazarus. So although he physically delayed the trip, He did not delay at all in God's timing for His glory. Jesus had already healed many sick. His followers had seen in thousands of times. He was to show them something much greater - the raising of a man who was dead for FOUR days. He was right on time.

2.) Mary and Martha met Jesus at different times when He arrived and yet they both greeted him with the same accusation. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." He could have spared them days of grief. If Jesus arrived when Lazarus was ill, but alive, they would have expected the healing, no problem. Again, God's plans were much greater. He pushed His friends faith and partly because of that faith, He did glorify the Son of God and rose the brother from the tomb.

3.)Although Jesus knew what He came to do, He was still suffered profoundly with those mourning. It was noted that he was deeply moved, and actually had anger towards death and He wept. He experienced grief completely in that moment. His heart is so tender to His children even though He knows and sees all, the "bigger picture." I have grownn in more love of Him as He shows this about Himself.

So...the sum it all up. I see in grief when seeking the Healer, He is already ardently looking for me to heal. And although it may feel like he delays or didn't "get there in time", that is not true. His timing is perfect as He continues to do His Father's will. Asking questions is part of grief and the lack of understanding in our humanity and God's mystery. When Jesus comes, He comes to execute and glorify the will of the Father in us. And even when those "if's" arise, our powerful and triumphant God is not bound by ANY of the paths we think we could have or should have taken. He permits and does His will in each of His children, while we cooperate in it. And God makes NO mistakes. A soul's conception and death is neither too late, too early, nor a mistake. His gentle hand guides both the making and the taking.

Last of all, Jesus continues to suffer WITH me. He feels all of my pain inspite of the victorious outcome. He is an intimate Lover, this God of souls.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Travelling on Sunday

I had two unique experiences this weekend with suffering. I have been thankful for the comparison of the two situations for I have learned much. Both situations have to do with the active choices we have in our response to one's own or someone's suffering.

The first experience was awful for me. In my own sensitivity to my cross, I was approached....let's just say, poorly. I have been LOVED and embraced so much and so tenderly, however, I have had many experiences with foolish tongues as well. Some days I can easily brush such "good intentioned" non-prudent comments or encounters. Some days, they just hurt deeply. I don't need to go into details of this encounter, but after it, I left feeling so heavy. I felt as if this cross I'm carrying was undermined and simply pitied. Fortunately, I was able to be embrace by Jesus through the arms and words of my mother-in-law and husband. My soul was renewed and stronger after. God allowed all of it to happen so I might come through better. I see and know how in our human weakness we can be repulsed by suffering when it comes too close. Watching it on the news and offering up a prayer is much different than coming face to face with a person who is deeply suffering. This reaction of our flesh can sometimes override one's compassion and prudence in speech. I know I have been on both ends of the tongue. After God renewed my strength that night, I asked Him to give me someone who was greatly suffering so I could embrace them in the way I was not. I wanted because of my own deep suffering, to suffer with someone else, whether it be for a minute, an hour, or a day. I desired truly and deeply to give someone else in pain, the compassion and comfort I, myself, did not receive. The Lord answered my prayer.

The next day I was given a random opportunity to do just that. I encountered a living saint in the midst of battle, the midst of fire. I got to pray with her and ask my sweet Stella for her unceasing and powerful intercession. My daughter and I were in "business" together! We worked together. It was so special for me. I was given the absolute gift to suffer with another member of the body part of Christ. She serves me in her suffering, she serves all of humanity in her suffering, just as each of us does when it is offered to the throne of God. I felt connected to her in our spirit because we both carry such heavy crosses, different, but heavy. It was the same experience and comfort I receive when I sit with one of my books on a saint. I don't know the soul personally but there is a mutual love and connection, like family.

I can't write for her, so I can't say what her experience was. I can tell you mine. I received a real embrace from heaven. As soon as I put my hand on her, tears filled my eyes because my spirit recognized the Kingdom in her, my Jesus in her. I felt her closeness to heaven. It was overwhelming to me. I received grace for my own suffering and strength from her strength. I saw how we are all bound together through and with Jesus. I experienced being the hands and heart of Jesus for one of His precious souls. When we truly suffer with someone, even if for only moment, torrents of goodness, beauty, holiness, and grace are released. It is undeniable. It is life giving and life changing. Deep and real compassion is completely different than pity. We not only get to be a vessel for Christ when we suffer with someone else, we get to do something truly amazing, something that surpasses time it takes us back over 2000 years.

When we encounter someone suffering, we are encountering the crucified Christ. When we truly embrace a suffering soul, we are telling and showing Jesus as He hangs on His cross, "See, Jesus, I remain. When other have ran away and left you, I... re...main." We comfort our very own Jesus' soul on the path of Calvary, like Simon, Veronica, or His most blessed Mother. Such a task is not always easy because suffering in others can unnerve things in us. But, grace is there. Grace will be there. And if we trust God to get us past those negative emotions and comfort and love a suffering soul, healing in oneself takes place! The only way Jesus can heal each of us is if...We REMAIN.

So...I offer a challenge to every one this week if you're up to it. Ask God to send you someone that you can suffer with, even for a moment. Comfort then from the depth of your soul. It is real encounter between heaven and earth and you will not only give hope to someone in pain, but you will be given much in return. And if you want to email and share your encounter, I would LOVE to hear of it. Blessings

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Confession

"The very act of willpower even directed toward sanctity, she [St. Therese] understood, could be tainted by self-love that could drive her to try to make herself the saint she wanted to be rather than allowing God to make her the saint she was created to be. She recognized that in use of her willpower she could sometimes be self-serving or even violent to herself or others in her efforts to be good. She was beginning to glimpse that holiness while needing her cooperation, was really a matter of God's doing."

This is a passage from a book on Therese of Lisieux called, "Everything is Grace". I read this part the other night and can't stop thinking about is because I saw my own struggles. A couple of things in particular touched and convicted me. How tender and merciful God is. When He wants to illumine our soul of its errors, He is gentle if we are of a willing and have open heart. He points out the error and then offers help and hope. If one feels shame or defensive, that is a matter of oneself, not from Jesus. For God is a good father with the tender heart of a mother. As long as we are open and responsive, His direction is clear, soft, and piercingly truthful. The soul knows when it is asked to progess in an area.

The word "self-love" screams at me. I see as I read that passage about Therese how much self-love I have!! I can think of times when I was a child where acts of self love arose clearly - tantrums, hitting my sister, or simply being stubborn. However, I think of myself as an adult taking care of others and putting my needs further down on the list, I guess I thought my self love has diminished greatly. I believe it has, but self love is so big that even when it is diminished greatly, what is left, remains large. How cunning is the flesh! Or maybe I should say, how foolish. I see how my self love conitnues to arise in not what I lack to DO, but in the attitude I do it in. It can be so deeply rooted that even when my desire is to become holy, the love of self can mask itself in righteousness and sanctification. I must pose the same question to myself, "Am I becoming the saint I want to be, or the saint God created me to be?" That is a poignant question with a baffling answer if I look at myself with truth. I think - both. I know I'm on the right path to the sanctification God has called me to, however I am sure the methods of travel are influenced to often by selfishness. That no matter how much I want to be good, those efforts are often tainted with self love, or the lack of LOVE I put into such actions. I write these words with thankful conviction, but not crushing despair. For as Therese realized, although holiness and sanctity do need cooperation it is God's work and I mush remind myself of her famous words - EVERYTHING is grace. How much hope there is for my soul, for as my soul is the boat on life's mysterious and treacherous waters, God is no only it's seasoned captain, but the One who made and placed the waters there to begin with.

**On a side note, I think of how Therese was known for her words -everything is grace. I thought if there was a book written about me I could narrow the title down to three options - "Time to Eat", "Stop Touching Her", or "Shhh...Mommy Needs Her Rest." Not quite as inspiring, but a bit comical.

***I realized I hadn't told a story recently of heaven. On All Saints Day, someone gave me a rose from Stella. She told me she saw Stella with her soul's eye and she had a white rose to give to me. However, when the person went to the store to get a white rose there were none! She asked the florist and she told her because of All Saints Day all the white roses were gone. So the person saw a white rose with just a touch of pink on the very tips of the petals. She prayed and asked, "Lord, Stella, what should I do?" She heard the words, "Tell my mom the the pink is from where I kissed it." I thought it was a precious gift. However, two days later I moved the long stem rose from one table to the little side table by my bed. I've been using Stella's side table from her room. It was from Shabby Chic (Chique?). I got her the side table and matching mirror. It is white iron with white roses. However at some point when I redid Stella's room, I wanted more color so I paint the very tips of the petals pink on her table and mirror. When I place the rose on the table I realized they matched perfectly. Only heaven could have planned that!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Sorry for the late post. I wanted to share the pictures from our Eve of All Saints Celebration. The pictures are in random order of the night. I LOVE this celebration. I didn't grow up doing it and our family didn't start until a few years ago when I was really convicted about it. Anyways... I hope you enjoy seeing all of the PRECIOUS children dressed up as saints and other Biblical characters.

Here's my John doint a Halo toss.

A few fairies still made their way in the mix of the saints. They were lovely.

This girl had the most original costume of the night. She dressed as a tabernacle! She did great.

This was Johnny's favorite game - fishing in the sea of Galilee. One thing I love about the party is that older children from the families help out with the games. It is such a great example to the younger children. It gives the older kids a chance to serve. They are great with the little guys and so encouraging. I love that.

Pumpkin carving contest.

Another game.

The boys LOVE this game of David and Goliath.

Johnny just got his face painted.

This is the end of the march going into the hall. We start outside and sing the Litany of Saints and then the children march into "When the Saints go marching in".

Mother Mary. SOOOO darling!

A sleeping St. Nicholas.

Blessed Juan Diego waiting for the party to begin.

Saint Joseph? I just loved the beard.

I loved her smile.

Another Mother Mary. She was my competition and she definitely won. (Yes, I dressed up. You will see that picture too.)

I forget this saint but I was so impressed by her craft to make that hat!

Look at the t-shirt! This is Gianna who is dressed as my Saint Stella! It was so honoring to my family. Her mom told me she thought of it all on her own! One of the highlights of my night.

Ok, kind of embarassing. The whole dress up thing is NOT my personality but John kept asking me and asking me who I was going to dress up as. I wanted to honor John's desire. I scrambled around right before the party and made myself Mother Mary. Johnny LOVED it! I wanted to do it to convey the importance of the saints and the night. When he saw me, his eyes got big and his mouth dropped as he exclaimed, "Mommy - you look BEAUUUUUUTIFUL!" Haha. My sister-in-law is St. Barbara and her husband is St. Francis Xavier.

My angel Gia. I made her little costume.

Cousins, Mariana and Grace dressed up as St.Clare of Assisi and St. Rita. I made their costumes the day of as well!

Cousin Caleb as St. Caleb and John as St. John the Baptist.

A very excited John the Baptist to get lots of candy.

A couple thoughts on the saints. I grown in much love for them over the last few years. I truly call them my friends as I have called upon them for help and learn of their struggles on this earth. I am missing my saint today. Last week as All Saints Day started to near, Phillip and I had taken John on a date. We went to eat and then had to stop in the store. We were driving to the store after the restaurant and it caught me off guard. We drove past the cemetery Stella's earthly remains are. It was so hard. I immediately ran in my soul to the heart of Jesus. Through tears I begged him to show me something. We got to the store. We ran our errand. I was praying the whole time. This is what Jesus showed me. I looked at the faces in the store. The world feels like such a foreign place to me sometimes. I look in the crowd for something comforting and familiar but I find nothing. I do not belong here I think to myself. I look for a glimpse of Jesus in the crowd. I see all of these people walking with such heavy hearts and long faces. They look terrible to me, but I tell myself each person I see has a soul. Each person I see is eternal. I got home and started reading my book based on the teachings of St. John of the Cross. I immediately feel peace and comfort. I feel my soul spark again and lifted up by this saint. This saint who's physical body has been deteriorating for centuries. However, he is more alive to me than the people I saw with my very own eyes walking in the store. They looked like walking corpses. While my friends in heaven that I cannot see stir in my soul and help me thirst and long for the life of heaven - real life. Therefore, even though those saints have been physically dead for a long time, they appear to me as more alive than many people I encounter on this earth. It was like Jesus was trying to show me not to be deceived by the appearance of some things. The souls gone home are more alive than any of us on earth. Heaven is real. Jesus is alive and working. I am so thankful for this reality. Blessings on all of you on this great Feast Day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stella and Another Lamb Story Remembered

Stella's arms couldn't stretch up any further. She was grunting and squirming in her stroller. "What on earth could she possibly want so bad? I've never seen her do this. She is only a year and half old. She can barely even talk," I thought to myself. I looked up in the direction of her agony. We were in a children's clothing store, but up on a shelf was a small stuffed animal of a LAMB. It had a little pink flower behind each ear. It really was precious. I handed it to Stella. She hugged it tight and held on to it through the rest of our shoppping. I looked at the price tag. It was an extra ten dollars I didn't have. We put it back on the shelf. Stella was sad and but peaceful.

It was the first time I had ever seen her react and want something so much. I was really taken back by it. The next day I went to my in-laws to visit. I was sitting on the couch talking to my mother-in-law and I told her what happened in the store with Stella and the lamb. She asked, "Well did you get it for her?" I said, "No. I didn't have the extra ten dollars for just a toy." The conversation topic changed and we continued to chit chat. The next thing I knew my father-in-law came in the front door with their mail. He handed it to Phillip's mom. We were continuing our casual conversation as she went through the mail. She opened a letter with a puzzled look on her face. She didn't know what it was about, but she knew who it was for. Inside the envelope were exactly ten, one dollar bills. The letter had to do about some survey. She turned to me, held out the money and said, "Well, I guess the Lord wants Stella to have that lamb." I refused it. She simply yet sternly replied, "I want you to get that lamb for Stella and when she gets older, tell her this story and how the Lord gives us the desires of our heart." I smiled at God's little work. The next day I went back to the mall and got Stella her little lamb.

As Stella grew older, I did tell her that story. She loved it. It was one of her favorites. As these memories come to mind, I continue to be amazed at the careful thought and preparation the Lord gave us for such a cross. How the events in my life, as I look at them, have not been a series of reactions, but a lovely thought out flow that connects poignant events. I see the purposeful direction. My God has steered me to and through many things but amazingly enough, there is a unique rhythm to it all. I had no idea that moment in the store would be so significant and speak volumes to me years later. Only God, who is a God of order and beauty down to the smallest details, could have planned something like that.

I pray and think through that moment. I examine it and look at it. I pray for the deeper understanding of it as I see the reason the Holy Spirit has brought it to mind. I know there is something He wants me to see. I am given the grace to grasp something deeper. I hope I can convey it in words. It is pretty intense and maybe even hard for some to understand and believe. I will do my best. So here it goes. I see how a soul is a soul no matter what the age or development. That even if the body and mind are very young or not well developed, the soul in essence is complete. Our soul is the part of us that shares in God's Divinity, in His eternity. It is the imprint of the Father, our Creator in us. As we grow and get older, our body and mind has more capacity to learn of it, to grasp it, to discover the deeper layers of it. However, those infinite layers have been there from the soul's establishment, its beginning. The soul can still communicate with God and even with others through limited physical capability. The desires of a soul has always been present. They are part of the soul's make-up, just as the color of a person's eyes are already set before they are even born. So even if the body and mind cannot speak for it, does not mean the infinite components of the soul do not exist yet. They are very much present. I can think of a couple other examples.

When I was about five years old, I was in school. I can clearly remember this assignment because I felt so passionately even at a young age. We had a blank piece of paper with a fill in the blank at the bottom. The sentence said, "When I grow up, I want to be ______." I wrote "a mom." And then I drew a picture of myself as an adult. I look back at that and remember the ardent longing and desire I had to one day be a mother. Where did that desire come from? I was five years old! With the physical knowledge and communication skills I had at such a young age, I could probably only convey a little bit of what I thought a mother was and did. I could probably tell you a mother was a lady who had babies. And I could probably give you a few examples of what a mother did like - she feeds the kids and takes care of them. As an adult, as a mother, the answer of myself as a five year old, doesn't even begin to explain in depth of what a mother is. My physical capabilities were not fully developed. I was only five. However, my soul still felt a passion for it. I desired it completely. So much so, I remember as I grew older in Jr. High I had a terrible fear God would call me to be a nun or something else. This fear did not derive from not wanting to be something else or a nun; it came from the depths of my longing to me a mother and the possiblity of that not being fulfilled. I wanted it so badly. My soul somehow knew before it could understand, the walk of holiness and happiness God desired for me.

Another clear example is quite simple. Gia is eleven months. She cannot talk, walk, or communicate physically very much. She can't do much physically at all. However, her soul still has some capacity to convey its desires. For example, and I kid you not. This started a few months ago. We go to daily Mass and we have images of Jesus and Mary in our home. When Gia passes by ANY of them she goes nuts. She starts kicking and squirming. I sometimes can barely hold on to her. She starts squealing with joy. She waves at the images and blows them kisses. She reaches out to touch them. She even starts to clap at them. And when we go to receive Communion she gives whoever is the one who hands the Eucharist to me, she gives a GIGANTIC smile. Her mouth cannot get wider and her eyes are squinted shut. Normally, when we encounter a stranger she just stares at them with a judging look. Gia also knows which image is Jesus whether He is in the form of a man, child, or baby. She knows the difference between Mary as well. I ask, "Where's Jesus?" And she can always point him out no matter what age He is. And when there is Mary, she points and says, "Mamam." Her soul, even though her physical being is so young, still communicates of such heavenly things.

I see how even though Stella was so young, her soul, the part of her that is eternal was calling out its desire to her Creator, to her Abba, her Father. He answered back and truly did give her the desire of her heart even if she didn't understand it yet. For it is The Father that placed it in her to begin with while she was fashioned ever so perfectly in my womb. As the body and mind, the person grows, certain formation of the soul takes place. It can mature in the Light of Truth or be hindered by surrounding darkness. However, the soul's presence is not diminished nor does it get bigger. Its value remains the same as when God gave it to a life until the day it returns home. The discovery of each new-found layer is what enlightens each person, but the layers are and always will be there, found or not. Or on the other hand, if the soul is not fed attributes of God - that is what is good, holy, pure, beautiful, etc. the layers and facets will remain hidden. And with much sorrow I say, by one's own self, the soul's existence my even be forgotten all together.

Contrary to what the world teaches, the physical world was intended to point to the realities of the spirit world. The physical world should aid us in the spiritual, not the opposite. It should reflect, make tangible, manifest, and represent the spiritual, whether the good or the evil. It is the same concept of God using the physical world, the natural, to communicate to us the spiritual, the supernatural. We see Jesus do this constantly in the Gospels when He speaks of parables and stories of events with His followers. These stories and parables about His life are not just to know about what He did when He walked on earth, but to learn of the spiritual teaching He has for us. He continues to speak through us in similar ways. So as I see it, the physical story of Stella in the store speaks to me of the spiritual teaching. Just as my soul spoke of my desire at a young age of the path that would lead me to a deeper awareness of God, so did hers. I see that story as another preparation for the great calling God had for my Stella and my family. If we carefully and prayerfully listen to the desires that our SOUL speaks from the depth of us, not the desires of the flesh, we see we are actually responding to our God, the One who place them there in each of us from our very beginning. He loves us so and has triumphant plans for each of us.

Well, I hope I was able to convey fairly clearly my enlightenment. I know it's pretty deep. I feel like I could only touch on the surface through writing what I was shown. Praise be to God forever.

**Just for fun, I also wanted to show you a picture of the name craft I did for Gia. I always do one for children's rooms. I hope to share more work as I am able to do it. I was inspired by some letter I saw at Anthropologie so I did my own version. I hand painted the G. I bought a number "1" at a hardware store, flipped it upside down and added some buttons and the heart shaped rock we found on the beach when we went to visit my family in August. I painted it and used it as the dot on the "i". The letter A, I stitched fabric and placed it on a board I covered with an old vintage children's book page. I then found the little black shelf at the goodwill for a few dollars. project cost me about $15-20 dollars, with the metal "1" being the most expensive item at about $9; instead of buying manufactured letters from Anthro for over $50. YAY! It was fun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Silence is Not Golden, it's a Gift

I cannot help but continue to think of the gift of silence. Silence can also seem a bit strange and uncomfortable as well. However, once I got passed the initial squirming that comes with it, the beauty through it is necessary and revelling to my soul. (I don't that "revelling" is a word, but it's just what came out in my writing so I'm leaving it). I remember four to five years ago when I was reading about the call to silence in the home, I became convicted of it. (By silence in the home, I mean eliminating or cutting down on unnecessary or as much outside noise as possible. Not the interaction of the family, or talking, or sounds out doors.) I worked on keeping the "outside" noise to a minimum. I designated certain days to run errands, specific times the children and myself could watch TV, driving without the radio or music, and even trying to limit phone conversation and calls. I gradually worked my way into each one of these tasks, building on each step to more quiet and contemplation in our home, or our "domestic church", as Blessed JPII calls it. For our homes, our families, give us great opportunities to strive for greater holiness and is a place where God dwells. Becoming aware of these things is much easier done when we quiet our lives as much as possible. Silence eliminates many unnecessary distractions. This venture of mine was more difficult than I had thought.

At night I got into the habit of after the children would go to bed I would just plop on the couch and find something to watch on TV. It was my time to unwind and zone out before bed. This is a wonderful thing to do. It is good to have some time to relax at the end of the day. However, spending it infront of the TV isn't the only way. I needed to check my moderation of such a habit. I can picture one evening when the children were sleeping, actually I only had Stella at the time, so when Stella was asleep. Phillip ran out to get ice cream or something. I sat down to watch TV. I decided to challenge myself to not turn on the TV just until Phillip got home and simply sit on the couch in silence. So I couldn't go distract myself with another task. I actually sat there fighting myself! I would watch the clock feeling like he was taking hours. I would even give in and turn the TV on a few times for a minute and then I would tell myself, "No, turn it off, you can do this." That is how much I relied on distraction, noise, entertainment, etc. Phillip would be gone for a total of about thirty minutes and I would literally be battling myself the whole time! Gradually, such a task became easier and conquered and I would move on to the next one. This little story is so humbling as I sit here thinking of what I am writing. But it's true. I didn't think it would be as challenging as it was. I was surprised by how strong and large my human weakness is, eventhough I shouldn't be. It is just a reminder of how and who I am without God - very helpless and pathetic indeed. I say that with conviction and gratitude. I am not discouraged by it. Instead, I am relieved. For the more aware of my weakness and helplessness I am, the freer I become. For I know that Jesus promises to make up all that I lack and that all things in life have God's hands on them. He and I both know how by myself, everything is a mountain for me to climb. I do not expect to do much on my own. However, with His grace the mountains become mounds that can simply be stepped over. As long as they are the mounds He wants me to conquer.

Anyways...back to silence. So this goal I had years ago has been up and down, just as life is. There are days and seasons when no silence has been obtained. For instance, after we have a new baby, the TV is on much more for the other little ones. And that is okay too. For as St. Therese says, "EVERYTHING is grace". She said during the last months of her life when she could not receive the Eucharist because of her illness, and her sisters felt so terrible for her, Therese would say that receiving the Sacraments is a grace, but that if there are times when God does not permit it, that too is grace as well, because everything is grace. However, over all I do try to make silence in our home a general goal.

I ask myself as I ponder these things, "What have I undeservedly gained from silence?" More than I know I am sure. More silence in our home has helped me focus on the mundane tasks God gives us to become more like Him. It aids my awareness of heaven's presence and communication through ordinary life, making it extraordinary. In silence, my soul hears the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, for He is soft and gentle. Jesus spoke these words about silence to St. Faustina, "Strive for a life of recollection so that you can hear my voice, which is so soft that only recollected souls can hear it."

The silence helps even our children know their parents are available to talk to them, listen, spend time and play with them. It makes us as parents more approachable and available to our children. The PRACTICE of silence and recollection helps me to learn of my own self, my interior life, my soul, Jesus' Kingdom on this earth. This practice helps me to learn to remain at peace no matter what challenges lay before me. It helps create a haven in our home from the chaos of the world, for anyone who enters it. One of my favorite things it has done is it has led the way to many blessed, fruitful and anointed conversations with Phillip and the children. I believe our striving for silence helped open the door for Stella's soul to blossom so much as it did. It was a tool for her own soul's preparation to go Home. For that alone, I am deeply grateful.

But tonight, I am going to enjoy going out with Phillip and maybe even watching a movie if it's not too late. So silence is not on the list for tonight. Blessings!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Conversation of the Merciful God with a Soul Striving after Perfection

I just wanted to share a passage from Divine Mercy in My Soul - The Diary of St. Faustina. It is titled by Faustina as - "Conversation of the Merciful God with a Soul Striving after Perfection."

"Jesus: I am pleased with your efforts, O soul aspiring for perfection, but why do I see you often sad and depressed? Tell Me, My child, what is the meaning of this sadness, and what is its cause?

Soul: Lord, the reason for my sadness is that, in spite of my sincere resolutions, I fall again into the same faults. I make resolutions in the morning, but in the evening I see how much I have departed from them.

Jesus: You see, My child, what you are of yourself. The cause of your falls is that you rely too much upon yourself and too little on Me. But let this not sadden you so much. You are dealing with the God of mercy, which your misery cannot exhaust. Remember, I did not allot only a certain number of pardons.

Soul: Yes, I know all that, but great temptations assail me, and various doubts awaken within me and moreover, everything irritates and discourages me.

Jesus: My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety. These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue. All temptations united together ought not disturb your interior peace, not even momentarily. Sensitiveness and discouragement are the fruits of self love. You should not become discouraged, but strive to make My love reign in place of your self love. Have confidence, My child. Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you. As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy.

Soul: I understand what is the better thing to do, what pleases you more, but I encounter great obstacles in acting on this understanding.

Jesus: My child, life on earth is a struggle indeed; a great struggle for My kingdom. But fear not, because you are not alone. I am always supporting you, so lean on Me as you struggle, fear nothing. Take the vessel of trust and draw from the fountain of life, - for yourself, but also for other souls, especially as are distrustful of My goodness. "

I hope this uplifts the journey you are on this week. Blessings!

Posting Today

Sorry about the delayed post. I will be posting tonight. The children have been under the weather and I went to a healing service last night. I got home later than I anticipated and I was too tired to type. I will post after the children go to bed tonight.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I've been thinking about a fact I recently heard. A mother carries cells from each child through her entire life. Furthermore, she carries even more if the child never reached full term. I've just been dwelling on this amazing way God created women. I think about how it must be biologically impossible for a mother to ever forget her child. Each one leaves an imprint not solely on her emotions, mind, and soul but on her physical body! I think of how I will carry physical parts of Stella in myself the rest of my time on earth. My mind is trying to wrap itself around such a wonder. It is so beautiful to me. I cannot help but think of the passage Is. 49:15, "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget I will never forget you." I dwell upon how God made it biologically impossible for a mother to forget her child and yet in this verse He tells us even IF the IMPOSSIBLE came to pass, He still could NEVER forget us. I am thankful for this because I know a soul such as mine, could never live for even a moment without Him. I can live without my daughter for a time while I am on this earth, but not my Jesus. Furthermore, I am confident in His love for me that no matter how he tried, he too could not stay away from me either. He feels this way about each of us.

I hear these words speak from the depths of my soul. My sould tells me, "Francesca, do you not perceive it? Suffering is NOTHING. I say it again, suffering is nothing, and yet it is EVERYTHING. For in suffering I am promised my life. I am promised His Kingdom. I am promised HOME! I say to myself, "I don't like it. I can't do it. It hurts too much. Please Jesus, ask someone else. Someone holy. Someone stronger." But then I hear the words, "But my child, who? If not you, then who?" There is no other way. He would not call me here, if He couldn't give me greatness; if He didn't have ALL of heaven to give. Yes, life moves forward. There are many joys to share with Him and my loved ones on earth, but it CAN NOT steal my heart from the place I am MADE for. It can NOT steal my heart form the hands that formed me, the hands I am made for. So then, how then do I carry on? How do we do this Jesus? Through silence. A soul cannot thrive if it is choked by the chaos of the world. On the contrary, a soul will experience freedom and pieces of heaven in the simplicity of silence. He loves me too much to let me go. Every tear I shed is kept in heaven and when I come, they are transformed into precious jewels for the crown that I have been fashioning on this earth. We are daughters and sons of Royalty. I must go now and quiet my soul, for my King has treasures of heaven to whisper to it.

We are never forgotten. Let us strive this week to quiet down our days and not forget Him who surrounds us! Blessings upon you all!! All is well.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Pictures and a Thought to Go with Them

More pictures as promised!! A gift I do not have is taking pictures. I rarely EVER take pictures of my children or anything else. So my options for postings are limited. I wanted to scan some pictures of when I first met Phillip fifteen years ago but the scanner wouldn't let me. Here is Gia and Johnny crashed out on our bed. We all slept together for a little while after Stella died. Gia is pretty young in this picture. I need to take some newer ones of her because she's grown so much.

Here's Johnny right after Gia was born almost a year ago. He was carrying this picture of one the Disney car characters around everywhere. I taped in numerous times. He wouldn't leave it out of his sight. Gosh, John looks so much younger!

Stella and Johnny in jammies. Again, right after Miss Gia was born. We were inside ALOT!

Here's Johnny showing us his long hair before we buzzed it.

Stella holding her newborn sister. One day when I was nursing Gia, Stella was playing "animal" and just stopped out of the blue. She came up to Gia and kissed her and said, "Gia, someday you are going to be a GREAT saint." Then she continued on in her play. I can't wait to pass those words on to Gia. Gia already takes Stella's picture and kisses it and makes endearing coos at it. I say to Gia, "Yes, Stella." And Gia replies, "Wada". I like to think she is saying "Stella". That 's the only time I hear her use that word. Gia and I sit on my bed and I give her a picture of Jesus and a picture of Stella and she goes NUTS over the pictures. It brings me such joy.

Here's my girl at tennis lessons. She was really athletic for a five year old.

Here's Johnny at Stella's fifth birthday. Everyone got animals on their faces but John had to have a....CAR. No surprise.

Stella with two of her cousins. I look forward to watching them all together in heaven someday. I miss their relationship so much. There is Stella in all her animal birthday glory. Her joy amazes me.

So there are some more pictures. I'll try to do better next time. I wanted to share one thought about this last week. I was in the kitchen doing whatever and outside of the window is a fig tree. I looked outside here and there as I was busy cleaning seeing the birds hop around looking for food. Suddenly I couldn't help but stop and take a good look because I saw around twenty sparrows in this tiny spot under the fig tree. I watched as they all busied themselves pecking at the earth. Immediately I thought of the Matthew 10:28-31 "Do not fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows." As I watched these sparrows I thought of not only was the Father providing food for a few of them but He was giving a flock of them an entire feast! I was comforted and reminded of care and concern my Father has for me and my family. Thank you Lord for getting my attention for a brief moment to show me that. Amen.

** This week I am hoping to add another tab on the blog. It will be called "Your Blessings Shared". I would like anyone who would like to share any blessings they've received on it. You can change names and relationships to keep it somewhat private. I hope we can encourage each other with them. I would specifically LOVE sharings if you have had any experience with my Stella's intercession for you or a loved one. Many people have shared stories with me but I would love to have it on the blog to look at it to uplift my own soul and yours as well. Please look for the tab and pray about anything you would like to share. Thank you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Service is Sanctuary

The last week was filled with much darkness for me. It seemed no matter how hard I searched, prayed, and cried for help I could not receive it. The darkness can make a clear path seem covered in fog. However, the path still remains the same. Those times feel infinite and exhausting. It feels like the more I tried to figure it out, the worse it appeared. So what does a soul do in such a time? Serve steadily. I am so thankful the darkness of grief has lifted the last couple days and rays of light have penetrated it. I look back at the week to reflect and learn from it. I see my sanctuary was in my service to my family. For as long as we stay true to our calling during such violent storms, we will come through not only safe, but even, enlightened.

As I continue to think about serving, God has been so good to confirm such thoughts. I have seen and heard the word "serve" EVERYWHERE! I took it as a "you're on the right track with your thoughts, Francesca" kind of sign. In such a difficult place, a soul can often be tempted to turn from God, question Him, or even possible reject Him. It is a horrific place to be. Service in one's vocation acts as a shield of great protection from such temptations and from even oneself. It protects the soul from grave damage. I realized when I serve in my vocation even in such a difficult place, my spirit is WILLING my flesh to choose right, to choose Love. I can be "screaming and kicking" on the inside but still serving God with my actions. I believe our loving Father looks at such an act with great tenderness and accepts such offerings with eagerness because a "feel good" emotion does not drive them. I am so thankful for the vocation the Father has given me. It is my path of sanctification. Service is humility. Humility is a virtue. Virtues lead us to sanctification and sanctification leads us Home.

I thought about Sirach 3:20-22. It tells us what humility is. It says under the title "HUMILITY" - "What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength, search not. What is commited to you, attend to; for what is hidden is not your concern. With what is too much for you meddle not, when shown things beyond human understanding." So as I dwell on this, I think of how practicing humility is to serve and take care of the things given to me and to try not to fall into the temptation of "having to have all the answers right now!". On darker days, practicing humility is painful. I fail and fall on my face too often. By trying to figure out the things beyond my strength and beyond human understanding, I waste much of my time and energy. Time and energy that could be used for the glory of my Creator, for my husband, my family, a stranger, etc. However, I trust in Jesus' mercy for me as He continues to use such fallings for His glory. Again, He'll even use the scraps from us if we are willing to give them.

So as those moments have now passed, (Thank you Jesus) and the eternal perspective is in better view, I think of Zelie Martin (St. Therese of Lisieux's mother). She lost four children, including a five year old and then had five daughters who all became nuns. She would often proclaim in her house hold that it was an absolute waste of one's time to search for happiness on this earth. I try to remind myself of her words as I know I will not regret a second of this temporary suffering when my eyes open to the majesty of my Homeland. Thank you Lord for giving such hope to my undeserving soul.

Oh, and I have some more pictures I will be placing on the blog in the next week or so. Just a heads up. And Johnny, Gia and I found three sparkly stars on the ground when we went to Mass this morning. It was a nice hello from Stella. Please continue to pray for us, as we pray for you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Severed Limb

How does one come to terms with such a drastic and quick change of course? It's as if someone cut off my leg and then demands "WALK! WALK!" Impossible it seems. But then I look at us and see that it is not. St. Faustina writes, "When I see that the burden is beyond my strength. I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: 'You can do all things.' And then I keep silent because I know that Jesus Himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love Him." Faustina reiterates one of the messages of the Gospels, that God can do ALL things and that NOTHING is impossible for Him. I see this to be true because I live it. For walking with a severed limb is impossible. That is why my Jesus stoops down from His mighty thrown in heaven and the moment my eyes open upon the morning light, His arms are already under my weak, handicapped self, ready to carry me to fulfill and perform the duties he has before me that day.

I have brought this very question up to Phillip and have asked, "How did our whole life change in a second?" Phillip's response was lovely. He always seems to have a wise answer for every question I pose. He said, "Life is full of such fast changes. It's just the difficult ones we dwell on more." He continued on and said, "I can think of plenty of other moments my life changed in an instant that I am so thankful for." I, the spouse that tends to lean towards the "cup half empty" responded, "Like what?" He comes in close and puts his arms around me, "Like...the second time I saw you. Or...the moment we were married. And the moment we found out we were pregnant with each of our children, and of course the moment they were all born. See, we've had lots of life-changing moments that have blessed us in abundance." He leans in even closer, "And do you know what Francesca? This one will too." I looked at him with a smile of peace and gratitude.

I thought of all Phillip said and pondered it. I thought of another moment that was the most significant life changing experience. The moment Jesus completed His Passion. I have fallen into the temptation of throwing myself in the multitude of souls He saved by His death and resurrection. It was at times hard for me to truly believe that Jesus personally and solely went through the Cross for ME. A few years ago, I read some words that silenced such thoughts. The words are this -

"Consider how important each soul is to Me. Consider Me, Jesus, in the form of my humanity. As I suffered anguish in the Garden, I was tempted with every form of temptation. Let us say that the enemy offered Me every soul on earth, but one. For stepping away from the chance of saving this one soul, I could escape the cross. Add to the consideration that this one soul might reject Me and be lost anyway. Would I be tempted? Would you?

Now consider that this one soul was yours. What do you think I would say? I assure you, My beloved, I said NO. Do not hold back from Me, little servants. Do not sidestep the Divine Will. Your family needs you and I need you."

Whether one believes Jesus himself said that, makes no difference. For those words are simply another layer of the Truth given to us through the Holy Scriptures. The greatest moment in all of history from the eyes of man appeared like the greatest defeat. How important it is to try to view EVERYTHING through the eyes of heaven. For on that day of Christ's death, while those on earth cried in agony, Heaven exploded with cries of victory, because death no longer had any power over us, the inheritors of the God Father.

So Phillip is right. For even though our lives did change in a moment, through the illumination of God, it does not have to be a moment of defeat, but of victory. I write these words not with real understanding, but with deep faith. I write them with hope and what I KNOW to be true. I write them because I CHOOSE Love. Furthermore, I know the Love that I have chosen DOES DO ALL THINGS and NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR LOVE.

Again, onward we go, one day further from my tragedy, one day closer to heaven.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Boy Meets Girl

I wanted to share another way the Father started preparing Phillip and I years ago for this time. I want to share the story of how Phillip and met over fifteen years ago. Both of our families were\are a part of a Catholic Charismatic gropu called City of the Lord (COTL). Phillip's family belongs to the main branch in Phoenix while my parents are a part of the MOnterey branch in Northern California. In 1996 a significant event happened to one of the families in Phoenix that started a wave of evangelization for the youth. This family grew up around the corner from Phillip's family. They are one of the Morgan's closest friends. They both had children that coincided with ages, therefore they grew up together. Their oldest son is still one of Phillip's closest friends and is actually Stella's godfather. Anyways...They have six children. The second oldest girl, Maren was Phillip's sisters, Monica and Elizabeth's best friend. At the age of 19, Maren was playing in a volley ball game and just dropped to the floor. Her life on earth was complete. She made it to her home in heaven. It was devastating, shocking, and completely unexpected. Because of this sacrifice a renewal in COTL occured focusing on the youth. Therefore, a couple of months later they held a youth retreat in Arizona. I was fourteen at the time a few weeks away from eigth grade graduation. My parents sent my older sister, Alexis and I with other teens to Arizona. This was my first Christian Youth experience. Alexis knew some of the teens already because she had gone to summer camp with them and to the first World Youth Day. I had never done any of that. I had NO idea this weekend was to be absolutely life changing. I was to meet two very special individuals, my future husband and the Holy Spirit.

The first night of the retreat was a "social". I was sitting in a small group of the few people I knew from home. I felt so shy and awkward. The night had been going on and towards the end, the doors suddenly opened. A wave of energy immerged in the stagnant air. A small group of highschoolers entered the room. Maren's brother, two of Phillip's sisters, Monica and Elizabeth, and of course Phillip. I remember seeing everyone's reaction as they all walked in. They were so joyful and seemed to light up the room. I couldn't keep my eyes off of Phillip. His confidence and joy at the young age of 17 astonished me. The way he interacted with everyone drew me in (His athletic appearance helped too). I actually thought his sister Elizabeth was his girlfriend because he was so loving and attentive to her. The next day, he asked my sister to introduce us as he thought I was a cute little girl (I was definitely not an early bloomer). He commented to me how when I turned 18 he would take me on a date. I tried not to take it too seriously since I saw him talking to quite a few girls that weekend and heard MANY girls talk about him. I knew for me, I had never met anyone like him before.

As for my personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, I was prayed over and my soul was stirred in a new way. I fell in LOVE with my God. I knew He was real and that He loved me. This sparked the journey of a personal relationship with my Jesus and brought to life my Catholic faith I grew up in. It was truly a new beginning for me and I knew there was no turning back. I was in for the long hawl. A couple months pass...

Monica and Elizabeth came to visit my family and then we were to drive to camp in Southern Cali. It would be my first camp experience. I was hopeful to see Phillip again. After a long, hot, weary drive we were suppose to go to a counselor meeting. We were late. Phillip's sister, Monica and I walked up to the building and she pointed towards the big window and said, "Look! there's my brother." My heart skipped a beat. I smiled and waved. He shyly grinned and gave me a reserved wave. Monica turned to me and said, "Wow, I've never see my brother act like that towards a girl before." "Like what?" I asked. "Like...shy." If you ask Phillip, he'll tell you that was the moment. That was the moment the Holy Spirit moved in him. He said he knew at that moment, he was going to marry me.

Something terrible happened, I actually got really sick. I had to stay with the nurse. I was in bed all week. I was devastated because my hope was to interact with Phillip during camp activities. The Lord knew and worked it out. Phillip came to visit me all week long. He would come and just sit and talk with me. I couldn't believe this older, hansome, star athlete was spending so much time with this little girl. The last night of camp he asked if we would be "prayer partners". He told me he would be praying for me every day and I would do the same for him. So that's what we did. My attraction for him was a tool the Lord used to establish a consistent prayer time. Instead of just day dreaming about this guy in Arizona, I got on my knees and prayed for him all the time. I couldn't forget Phillip, therefore I couldn't forget to pray for him either. The Holy Spirit is brilliant. (And for those who have discerned that marriage is their vocation, even if you have no one in prospect, PRAY for your future spouse. Phillip started praying for his (me) in third grade!)

From that time on, Phillip and I had other encounters through other retreats, camp, and an occasional phone call or letter. We never declared anything for each other. We continued on with the life God had for us in the place He had us - Arizona and California. He went to college in San Francisco, I went to college in Indiana. We dated here and there to pass the time as we waited for another encounter with each other. The prayers never ceased. I remember shortly after camp I sat before the Lord and poured my heart out to Him about my thoughts and feelings about Phillip. I knew it would be many years before anything could ever seriously happen between us. I knew much of life would have to take place. I pleaded with Jesus and told him "Please, Lord, even if I somehow over time I forget about Phillip, please, do not forget." I placed that desire in the Lord's hands. And He not only didn't forget, He helped us flourish. Phillip and I often talk of how, from a distance, the Lord used us to protect each other. I could never get very serious with anyone else because I compared all to Phillip. I knew what was out there and no less would suffice. Phillip felt the same way. Phillip, as a guy with athletic scholarships, looks, brains and personality held back from many temptations with girls because He wanted to offer the best he could to me someday. The perseverence through eight years before we married taught us much and we were given much grace because we were open to it. We then had an exclusive, long distance relationship the last two and half years of my time in college, knowing we had already made the CHOICE to love one another. I truly believe and know all of those years, the longing, the heart ache, the waiting, the not knowing, and the perseverence increased virtues for us for this time right now. I think of the Book of Songs where it says, "Do not arouse or awaken love before its time. For as strong as death is love, unyeilding as the grave, nothing will quench its flame." There was grace for that as well. In my youth, if Phillip would have asked me to be with him from the age of fourteen, I would have said yes. But the Holy Spirit gave Phillip the gift of prudence. And we both knew it simply was not time. If we had decided to be impulsive and give it a shot early on, I cringe to think what could have happened - emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. I have always struggled with patience, but through God's grace I was forced to accept such a beautiful virtue. There are so many moments to share over all the years, but that is essentially how it all started. Youth and singles, please hold out for the best. God does not want you to settle for ANYTHING less. In the mean time, let us all work on obtaining such heavenly virtues, for in them we become more like the image and likeness of God we are MADE to be. The path Phillip and I were called to take to get to each other was HARD, but absolutely heavenly. I have no doubt that any road if we are allowing the Creator to lead us on, no matter how difficult will bring an ABUNDANCE of Love. I have already experienced that in my finding of Phillip. God has no lesser path for any of us. Thank you Father!