Monday, May 30, 2011

He Loves Me, He Chooses Me

We had a stomach bug run through us this week. I didn't have much time to think about this week's post, but I did get the opportunity to live it to a greater degree.

I can picture a time in college when Phillip and I were dating. We had a long distance relationship and were on the road to marriage. I was going through a very difficult time emotionally. I remember telling him that I would understand if I was "too much" for him to handle and if he wanted to end things. He confidently replied, "Love is a choice. I've chosen you." His response was so endearing to me at the time, but now as I've been pondering it, I realize how profound of a statement he made. I have heard many times and "know" that love is a choice. We know that it should not be based on emotions that come and go. Love doesn't change with the wind. It isn't solely a "natural instinct" or our "animal drive." Grounds such as these are far to shaky for Love to be built upon and flourish.

Something significant in my soul has struck me as I have reflected on the truth of love being a choice. I realized even further, that love not only is a choice, but that it cannot exist without one. LOVE CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT CHOICE! Choice is imperative to love, without it, love simply is not there. In my frustration with my own flesh at times, I have said to God, "Why couldn't you just make all of us love you. It would be so much easier that way and then all of life's problems would be solved." Or... "If you just showed everyone Yourself in all your glory, then everyone would just have to choose you and again, the problem would be solved."

However, this wouldn't work. God doesn't want robots, that's why he gave us free will. And since God is Love, and Love is a choice, then God is a choice too. He can't force himself on us, it simply is NOT POSSIBLE. Because again, without choice, love can't exist. By choosing to send His Son, Jesus, and by choosing to die on a cross for us He chose to show us real love. He chose us. He wants us to be with Him FOREVER. To do this, in return, the beloved must choose the lover as well. We know like in any relationship, this to be true. For example, Phillip and I couldn't have gotten married if the love wasn't mutual. Furthermore, if one of us forced it upon the other it would not be free. It would be a place or act of confinement. If it is forced, one in bold terms, may even label it as a form of rape. It is NOT Love. Love must be chosen in order for it to fulfill it's purpose - to be fruitful, free, pleasing, faithful, selfless, ecstatic, enduring, and all the other aspects Paul describes in I Corinthians that I've already mentioned in a previous post.

The road to Perfect Love is not always easy, but the things that are the most worth-our-while never are. I must look at the price Jesus paid for Love, He paid EVERYTHING. It's the only path there is to be completely and consumed by Love's flames of eternity. And one may say, "I want Love, but I don't think I can give everything. I will give all of "this" but not "that". " Then it is not Love being given. Love is limitless and boundless. We have to give everything, or it is not love. Again, if Phillip told me he would completely love me until "here". I would think #1) Then it isn't completely and #2) Then it's not enough. If it isn't ALL, it isn't enough. It isn't Love. I wouldn't feel secure or loved by remark like that.

My path of and to love, laid out by my God, specifically for me, Francesca, has abundant blessings and glimpses to Perfect Love. That is what carries me on, especially when the road has such rough terrain. When I know I can't do it any more I remind myself of the choice God made for me and the choice I make minutely for him. His Spirit then picks me up and carries me so I can somehow keep walking. This road of life with Jesus is not aimless with no direction. It is the road to home - a place of rest, of safety, of joy, and belonging. A place where Love lives and conquers. It is the road to the only place my soul desires to journey. It is the road I choose with Jesus and heaven's help to walk daily, the road to and for the cause of Love. Let us set our feet straight on the narrow path and charge full forced on it. We are never alone, nor the first to walk any of the steps we must take. Peace be with you all this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Listening for Whispers

Before I start on this weeks writing. I forgot to share another blessing we received on Stella's birthday. One of my sister-in-law's and her family live in Germany. Her husband is a Captain in the Army. Anyways...they skyped us on Stella's birthday and their oldest son just received his First Holy Communion. The day before Stella's birthday, Quin was going to serve for the first time as an altar boy. To make a long story short, he got too nervous and didn't do it. The next day on her birthday he prayed and asked Stella to help him and HE DID IT! He served his first Mass as altar boy, on St. Stella's birthday with her help. We were so blessed by that.

Regarding this week's post...

I wanted to touch base again on becoming like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I've mentioned how Stella has set such a realistic and wonderful example of this for me. Unfortunately, many children now-a-days do not resemble the "child-likeness" Jesus is talks about in Scripture. Many children have been stripped of such innocence at a young age because of what they have seen, heard, experience, or the lack of. My sister-in-law just experienced a perfect example. She and her family spent the night at a resort. She overheard a man tell two little girls, around the ages of 4 and 7, about the enthrallment of Ouija boards. These girls were listening profusely trying to wrap their tiny brains around what the man was informing them about. This is just one example of how some children do not have the chance to even be "children" in our culture.

When I look at what it means to be like a child, the kind our Lord talks about, one of the attributes that astounds me is how they are confident in the acts of God in the small. Because they are "newer" souls to the world, they find such pure fascination with the elements of the earth. I can think of an example involving my 6 year old niece, Isabel. Shortly after Stella died they were at some gathering after church. There were red balloons and she and her two sisters wanted to release three of them to Stella. The next day they were driving and my sister randomly stopped on the side of the road (not a common practice for her) and right there in a tree was a red balloon. Isabel immediately proclaimed, "Mom, Look! Stella sent a balloon back to us!"

Without a doubt she believes this and boldly professes it. I believe children can be better receptors to the Holy Spirit because of their purity and openness. I could easily think in my "adult" mind, "O, isn't that cute. She thinks her cousin sent one of the balloons back to her. That's so precious." But to become more childlike, I answer back to myself "Why not? Because it doesn't seem supernatural? Because it is in the natural? Isn't this God's world to begin with?" Since God works in the natural and there are no coincidences, then Stella did send it back. I don't think it is God who needs to change His ways of communicating to us. Rather I need to change my way of listening. I think of Elijah in I Kings 19:11-13. He was listening for God to speak. There came a big wind, an earthquake, and a fire. God was not in any of them. He was in a quiet whisper. Amongst so much noise and chaos, I must practice even more how to tune my spiritual ears to His whispers. It takes practice and trust. I also think of St. Francis de Sales. He once looked at a rose and said, "I hear you, stop shouting!" God's glory was revealed to him in the beauty of that single rose. I want to be able to do that.

I thought of three examples out of many I wanted to share about the whispers from heaven to me. I chose these three because I have pictures of them. My father-in-law is a master gardener. I helped him start this huge beautiful vegetable garden in his back yard. It has been a good learning experience for me. Anyways...I water the garden and occasionally go out and look at the progress. I noticed our zucchini plants have blossoms on them. I've seen them time and time again. One morning I was looking out the window at the garden and my eyes are naturally drawn to this pop of color from the blossoms on the zucchini plants. I was drawn to go look at them closely. God too had been shouting at me but I hadn't heard. I realized the blossoms are in the shape of STARS! I heard it loud and clear. Do you know what else? Ever since that morning I took the picture and went out to look at them, the blossoms have been closed up. He kept them open until I heard. His mercy is lovely. My God was telling me, my star, my saint, my Stella is BLOOMING in heaven! She is alive and thriving!

The second experience I want to share is... One day I prayed and asked Stella to show me on that day, specifically, her presence. A little while later, Phillip's oldest sister, Celestina, came in to my in-laws house and said "Hurry, come look outside on your car!" I looked outside and there was one of my in-laws white doves hanging out on our car. First of all, the bird wasn't suppose to be out of it's loft. Second of all, I nonchalantly asked my father-in-law if it was normal for one of the birds to hang out on any of the cars, because I myself had never seen one of them do that. He told me that wasn't "normal" behavior. It was there for a long time and even when I got close to take the picture it didn't get scared and fly away. The third thing that intrigued me was that it was a young bird, not an adult. In other words, it was a "child" dove. Now why would Stella have answered my prayer in the form of a white dove? We can think of the symbolism of doves - their purity, signs of hope, etc. Furthermore, more specifically to Stella, for All Saints Day this last October she asked if I would make her a Holy Spirit costume. We use a white dove to symbolize the Holy Spirit. So that is what she was on All Saints Day, a white dove, the Holy Spirit! And I can assure you this - among all the many, many dressed up children at the party, Stella was the only child dressed like the Holy Spirit. She was soooooo precious!

The third "whisper" I want to share is about a red pepper. I was prepping food for dinner and I was making stuffed peppers. Being part Italian, I use red peppers A LOT in cooking. It's one of our favorites. I have never had this happen to me before. When I cut one of the peppers in half there was another pepper growing inside of it in the shape of a heart. I couldn't believe it! I showed my sister right away since she was visiting. I love thinking how God new what store that pepper needed to be in when he grew it in some farm field months before. He new the exact time it would've needed to be ready because He knew what day, time and store I would purchase it in. And the fact I didn't even scratch the inner "heart" when I cut it in half is miraculous in itself! The question is, what was He showing me through the natural of the red pepper? It could be a reminder of His love for me. But as I have dwelt on it, I think He is telling me He holds my heart and all of it's desires in His. That my heart beats with every beat of His heart, and that His heart is my heart's life line. It was so tender to me.

As we grow up we can get lost in the cynicism of our culture. We lose the perspective of the miracles and love of our Creator in the world around us. I need continual help in trying to listen to my Lord's whispers and fully rejoice in the reality of them. I pray you experience God's whispers to you this week! Look and listen for them. He lavishes them on us.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Good Job St. Stella!!

** The picture I mention in the post that my older sister sent me. One of my favorite gifts of the day.

**Stella's cousin grace releasing one of the doves for the birthday party

Thank you for all of the prayers for us this week, especially since we had Stella's birthday on the 11th. Phillip told me a few days before that we had a choice. We could choose to let it be a very difficult day or try to make the best of it. This kind of choice is not easy for me. Looking at the glass half full has never been my forte. However, with God's grace that was the choice we made. So...we decided to have a St. Stella birthday party. I planned on Monday and Tuesday, the cake, the food, what we would do, etc. I thought at first we would have an animal theme since that's what we did last year for her birthday. However, a heaven theme seemed much more appropriate. I just wanted to give you a run down of ALL the magnificent blessings from heaven we received on Wednesday, on her birthday. On Monday, Johnny and I went to the Dollar Tree looking for some tinsel garland to make halos\crowns for all the cousins and siblings. I wasn't sure I would be able to find it since it is not holiday season. But God knew, and of course the Dollar Tree had it! I also found some nice sea creature stuffed animals there, to my surprise. Stella LOVED stuffed animals! I picked out one for each of the cousins and Johnny. I wanted them to receive a present from her that day. We got home and John handed me nativity wrapping paper. At first I told him we couldn't use it because it was for Christmas. However, then I realized there were no Christmas words on it and the Holy Family wrapping paper would be perfect for our Heaven party. So on Monday I worked away on the halos, gifts, and started making the cake. Tuesday I made a banner out of felt I had laying around for Stella. I cut out felt letters saying "Good Job St. Stella!" I finished the cake that night and also found some scrap fabric to make Gia a special dress. My mother-in-law and one of my sister-in-laws gave me two beautiful bouquets of Sunflowers. I wanted the table to have bright , happy sunflowers on it. I told everyone to dress up because we are royalty. We are the sons and daughters of the KING. So the big day arrived on Wednesday. My husband's family met us at Mass that morning. I felt joyful preparing for everything. At Mass however, I lost it. I was sobbing. Stella was mentioned in the liturgy. This seemed so strange to me. The blessings just started pouring out though. A woman from our Church gave me a "spiritual" gift. She shared a special experience with me and it confirmed something I had a sense about. I was thankful and blessed.

We drove to my in-laws house, where we had the party. I could feel this drive start within me. I call them "creative juices." I wanted to change the table setting. I ran outside and started cutting down branches, foliage and oranges from some trees. I just wanted lots of colors and nature. I scurried to find and clean a couple jars. I ran upstairs to find some fabric and a picture of Stella. I looked for gold stars to hang. In a matter of minutes, my little girl's birthday table was set and so beautiful. It was exactly what I wanted. I made star shaped sandwiches for the children and a delicious gourmet sandwich for the adults. I was showered with three more beautiful bouquets of flowers that day, and of course the hugs and blessed conversations to go with it. The joy in the air was astounding. I kept waiting for the next surprise gift from heaven. Friends stopped in with their children to play and offer support. I received a very special physical present and another spiritual one. My older sister emailed me a picture of Stella she had worked on. I had never seen it before. It looked like someone took a picture of her now, in heaven. It is of her running, and it was another confirmation of how I knew she RAN to Jesus. Her facial expression is priceless. I cried when I saw it because of the meaning I knew it carried.

One of my favorite gifts was given to us through the Mass. The Gospel was John 6:36-40. That was the exact Scripture I used in the blog last Monday. I randomly fell upon it and it didn't hit me in particular at first. But as the week had gone on, before I used it in the blog the words really empowered my spirit. I kept thinking about how Christ's sole purpose was so that nothing given to Him would ever be lost, but would be raised on the last day. I know the Holy Spirit placed that Scripture before me, to dwell on it and take it in. And of course, that was the exact Gospel on Stella's birthday! Only the Holy Spirit could have done that. Each moment just kept getting better. The day was coming to an end, my cup was overflowing. Just when I thought it was all over, I heard a knock at the door and a package arrived. Close friends of ours called this Italian bakery in San Francisco and had a variety of the store's cookies sent to us. This place is very special to us. My parents would always bring cookies from this bakery to my siblings and I when they would go to the city for a play or date. It was the BIGGEST treat for us and one of my favorite childhood memories. The name of the bakery is ... STELLA'S. They were also the cookies we had as part of the desserts for Phillip and my wedding, which was also the exact night we conceived our Stella. I was blown away at the way God is a part of intricate details of our lives if we let him. I received two more spiritual gifts and one special physical one. They are mine personally, but I just wanted to make known the three more. The peace and absolute joy everyone felt was only from heaven. Stella I'm sure enjoyed prompting all of those wonderful blessings she had for her family. We all felt a piece of the joy she experiences completely and fully at each moment! I long to live in that for always. The pictures don't do it all justice. Enjoy them!
Our Father in Heaven honored our choice to live and seek after the glory of the truth on that day. The day I thought was going to carry such a heavy load, carried with Jesus felt almost like carrying a feather. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We allowed Him to carry us that day. The days following, have been much harder for me. Keep prayers coming. AHH! I wish I was better at taking pictures! They just don't captivate the beauty of the day! Oh well, you can get some idea.
**This is Gia and Johnny dressed up before Mass. Gia is in the dress I made the night before.

**This is Johnny playing with his hammerhead shark stuffed animal from Stella's party

**Some of the star shaped sandwiches for the children
**Some of the cousins and John in the halos. We are all saints in the making. We are missing a quite a few cousins in the pic.
** Here's Miss Gia with one of the white birds for the dove release at the party. My inlaws have the birds so it was an easy activity to do with the children. They each said a prayer to ask Stella to pray for them and then after the release we all shouted happy birthday.

**This is the banner I made
** This is a closer picture of the cake. I wish the detail of the decorations came out better in the picture. I had pretty glitter on it and silver pieces. I had never made a tiered cake before.

**I had to add the lamb stuffed animal on the table.
**I used my mother-in-laws colored teacups. The table was so colorful and happy. I threw the halo around each cup with the child's name on it. God calls us each by name.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Do You Mean I'm Not In Control?!!

Sorry about the later post. The computer wasn't working last night so I couldn't type it up until now.

I have been thinking about walking in the Mystery. I ask myself, "How can I get used to walking in it?" Even though I "know" life is full of uncertainty, I still somehow believe that A+B=C. We've tested it, we've seen A+B=C in our lives over and over again. But at some point we see that C was not the result of adding A and B together. Contrary to what we are often taught, life is not a mathematical equation. God is full of mystery. Trying to understand all of it is like trying to fit an the entire ocean in a small hole in the sand. Romans 11:33-36 says, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgements and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

I remind myself I am HIS creation, His servant. He is NOT mine. How can the clay tell the Potter how to form it? This somehow is a difficult concept to truly grasp. I was struck hard with it recently. I was frantic a few weeks after Stella went to heaven. My mind was on a roller coaster that would not stop. I was questioning everything, looking for answers about how and why everything in an instant just happened to Stella, to us. I started beating my brain over all the "should haves, could haves, would haves". Then all of a sudden I was literally knocked to my knees and my face hit the floor. It was as if something (or someone ;) ) just grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me clarity. This is what I heard inside :

"Who do you think you are? You are NOT practicing humility. To think YOU have any control over life or death. I AM the author of life."

Immediately, my words of frantic confusion turned into prayers of asking for forgiveness, praises to my God, and petitions of help. I was filled with an overwhelming desire to charge through this world, this life, for the greater glory bringing as many of His beautiful souls with me to Our King's thrown. I was put in place that day, that moment. I am thankful.

The question then becomes what I stated in the beginning - How can I get somewhat used to walking in the mystery that life is, that is God? How can I get used to being humbled enough to not finding all the answers, not assuming that C will result from A+B, and that it is okay? God gives us many tools and clues as to who He is and what He is like. He became man after all. He continues to reveal himself to us in the present. So regarding the answer to the question, one way I can try to get used to this mystery is by looking at the life of Jesus. Getting to know some of the nature of the Mystery, the nature of God. Through the Gospels and the New Testament, we are given a plethora of answers to who He is and what He is like. And a theme I have often talked about and will say it again, GOD IS LOVE. Therefore, by walking in the mystery, I am walking in Love, real love. This is not as easy to grasp as one may think. We have been served many lies through our culture, through our personal experiences on what love looks like. These lies are not real, they are not God. We must become fully aware of what real love not only is, but what it is NOT. Paul in I Corinthians 13:4-8 breaks it down perfectly to us. In short Love holds these qualities:
patience, kindness, rejoices in the truth, it bears ALL things, it believes ALL things, it endures ALL things, triumphant, selfless, humble, encouraging.

Things that love is NOT:
jealous, arrogant, rude, selfish, impatient\quick-tempered, boastful, seek to embarrass, rejoices over wrongdoing, fails.

We have heard this Scripture many times, especially at weddings. We had a children's book that just had this Scripture with wonderful illustrations. It was one of Stella's favorite books. However, if we really look at it and try to live and seek it, the power is unlike any other. If these qualities do not appear in our lives, in our relationships, in our homes than it is simply an imposter of Love. This is what I am walking in, when I strive to allow myself to walk in the mystery. Furthermore, as my wise husband reminded me, just because it is Love, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Jesus is love. He hurt. He hurt so much he died a torturous death for the cause of it. The hurt must be nothing compared to the glory to be revealed. For love only hurts in the present, rooted in selfLESSness, to fulfill a much more triumphant future.

The second truth that is helping me become more comfortable walking in God's mystery is what Jesus himself said in John 6: 37-39 "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven NOT to do my own will, but the will of the One who sent me. And this is the will of the One who sent me, that I SHOULD NOT LOSE ANYTHING OF WHAT HE GAVE ME, but that I should raise it on the last day." Therefore, anyone who comes to Him will NEVER be lost! In other words, His sole purpose of coming to do God's will is so that nothing will ever be lost. I will see my Stella again. I will be given back all and more of what I have given up. That is nothing but HOPE-FILLED news! Christ himself promises this!

The last tool I have thought of is prayer. Spending time with Jesus, helps me know him. Life is BUSY absolutely. There are many interruptions. But to become familiar with the Mystery, prayer is the only way I can get to know it, get to know Him. It is not easy to set that time aside, but it is imperative. Pope John Paul II when working in a noisy factory would spend hours on his knees in prayer. He purposely did this among such hectic-ness and noise so that He could learn to hear God's voice even in the loudest situations. Now, I don't do that, but I am learning more and more that setting aside time to sit in silence is the only way I am surviving all of this. And by disciplining myself to do so, I crave it more each day. I see myself looking forward to it, needing it, craving it.

In conclusion to these thoughts, my hope and belief is that by learning to walk in the mystery, A and B may not always add up to C. Instead, it adds up to INFINITY (I wish the computer had the mathematical sign for "infinity" on it.) The expected answer? No. The much greater answer? ALWAYS. Again, for from him and through him and for him are all things, to him be all glory forever and always. Amen.

Oh, please keep our family in your prayers this Wednesday, the 11th. It is Stella's birthday. Thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

With Mother's Day Coming and All...

** Stella at her five year birthday party (May 11, 2010). She of course had an animal theme and wanted to have her face painted like a tiger. She was in character with the intense expression
**Stella holding Gia as a newborn, making a silly face.

Since Mother's Day is on Sunday, I wish to write about mothers, motherhood, and Our Mother. However, this is not just for those of us who are mothers. It can be applied to all seasons of life, whether male or female, I think. Sometimes when I look at trying to become like Jesus and how short I fall, I tell myself, "Well, I know He is human, but He IS also God." Then I can look at Mary and I see I have no excuses. She is not God at all, just human. She reflected the life of her Son closer than any other person - past, present, or future.

I read in "The Life of Mary" book seven prayers she prayed daily before she was asked to be the Mother Of God. Here are the seven prayers:
"1.) I prayed for the grace to fulfill the precept of charity: to love God with all my heart.

2.) I prayed for the grace to love my neighbor according to His Will and pleasure, and that He should make me love all that He loves.

3.) I prayed that He make me hate and flee all that He hates.

4.) I prayed for humility, patience, kindness, gentleness, and all virtues by which I might become pleasing in His sight.

5.) I prayed that He should let me see the time when that most holy virgin would be born who was to give birth to the Son of God, and that He preserve my eyes that I might see her, my that I might hear her, my tongue that I might praise her, my hands that I might work for her, my feet that I might walk as her servant, and my knees that I might adore the Son of God in her lap.

6.) I prayed for the grace of obeying the orders and rules of the High Priest of the Temple.

7.) I prayed that God should preserve the Temple and all His people for His service."

Mary continues to make the point by saying to St. Elizabeth of Schoenau "A soul cannot have any virtue if it does not love God with all its heart, for from this love the abundance of grace descends into the soul. But after descending, it does not remain, but flows away like water, if the soul does not hate its enemies, that is, its sins and vices." This desire inside of me, to know this UNFATHOMABLE LOVE my Stella ran to, the One she lives and dwells in, will continue to search for the One who started it within me. If Mary, the one who was asked to be the Mother of God, prayed these prayers, then I too desire to pray them as well. (But obviously, adapt some of the wording and requests to the present - for example instead of Temple I pray for the Church.) I figure if I take on her prayers, I will be given grace to take on her practices. If then I take on her practices I will be given grace to take on more of her mindset. And if then that takes place, my soul will be given the grace to conform to Jesus' perfect Will, His perfect Love. And then as she says herself, I will then be able to contain all the virtues that are enveloped in Love of God. For to love God, is to know Him, and to know Him is to love Him.

I recall a time in my own motherhood, a fear I held. I heard from other mothers who had worked so hard on serving their families, they forgot who they were and it caused much emotional damage. I was afraid, by giving my "all" in motherhood, I would "lose" myself - my dreams, goals, personality, etc. Phillip and I have only one car as one of the sacrifices made in order for me to stay at home. The cabin fever would drive me crazy some days. I would complain to Jesus telling him how I can never get out of the house with or without children. I can't do this or that, become Miss Successful, or Mrs. Accomplished and therefore I felt as if I was already on the path I feared. I felt if I "lost" myself I would not only be a terrible person, but a terrible wife and mother. It was a hard day. I felt trapped. Then inside, I heard these words - "Do not think of these walls as a prison. Think of them as a cocoon." Yes, that is right. And do you know what? I can't even tell you the gratitude I feel towards only having one silly car the last 6 1\2 years. Because of it, I was forced to make my house a home, a domestic church. I could not get up and leave whenever I wanted. I could not get up and run to a distraction, to entertainment, or be busy-bodied with errands. No, instead I often had to remain in the present moment with "hoe in hand." It is the reason why I was able to see my daughter become a saint. For what happens in a cocoon? Yes, a cocoon can seem like a form of entrapment. But a cocoon does not house rot and death. A cocoon prepares, houses, and protects the already magnifcently-made-caterpillar so it can fulfill its complete purpose; that is, to become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly! And this butterfly then flies FREELY through the skies and over the earth.

So you see, as a person, my complete and total surrender to God's call for me, as wife and mother, I am actually not "losing" myself at all. Instead, I am "finding" myself more and more. For as I teach each child and his or her specific needs, I must search my own self for such answers. In other words, when I instruct their souls, I must first look at my own in order to give them the best guidance and formation I know how to give. Through grace, prayer, and discernment as I learn to teach them how EVERYTHING comes back to our Creator, I myself learn more about the mystery of the creation that I myself am. For I too, am fearfully and wonderfully made. And even though the cocoon might make one feel trapped or even a bit suffocated at times, if we wait patiently, "hoeing our gardens," striving to please our God in the small, mundane tasks of a single day, we will all of a sudden notice we have wings on our backs and we are actually completely FREE. Our free will is the greatest gift God gives us. We must choose his love. He will not force it upon us. And if we do decide to choose it, let us choose it fully and do as Mary did on earth - strive to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. I ask, I beg for His grace to do so. This soul of mine is ready to become a butterfly.