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!

Internet Problem

The internet wasn't working last night when I went to post. So as long as it continues to work today I will post tonight after the children are in bed. Sorry about that. I hope everyone's long weekend was relaxing.