Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Holy Feast

My name -Francesca Elena. Francesca derives from the male name Frances. It means "free". I was named with my Italian heritage in mind after my great aunt, Francesca and the Italian saint, Francis (Francesco) of Assisi. My middle name was a derivative of my Nana's name Eileen. It means, "tree". "Free Tree". The name meaning never sounded as noble, valiant, or lovely as many others. Tree? I never felt like my name meaning revealed any significance of who I am.

"Free." Free." I want to mean my name. Free is something I have always longed for. As a young adult, I was studious, confident in my speech about all my dreams and aspirations, always active, always involved, always a sensitive soul who even had wisdom from her young years. A romantic and a bit hopeless for romance. I often looked ahead to all my big dreams, goals and hopes, determined accomplishing them would make me happy, or more importantly - free. What is this freedom I so desired? Success? Travelled? Educated? In love? Adventure? I thought accomplishing and going after such things would make me feel better about myself, know myself more, be respected, be...free.

With dreams and self-discipline and determination packed in suitcase, I set off over half way across the country to start this new life and ideal for myself. For college, I would go far from home to really show the world and myself, my new independence. I worked hard and was an accomplished student. I travelled much, the US and many places in Europe upon studying abroad in Rome. I found new interests that seemed to light new passions in me and it truly appeared like all I was doing was according to plan. However, I didn't feel "free". I was facing an imperative battle. A battle in the mind. I was faced with horrible, fear-driven, uncontrollable, racing obsessive thoughts; later to be found as OCD and depression. These years were not as I had planned. From the "outside" I was doing everything "right" to be a successful, happy person. Inside, I felt lost, alone, confused and down right a mess. I didn't understand. I had a growing relationship with Jesus. I knew the importance of the spiritual life. I knew He was important to my plans. He needed to be in the center of everything. However, looking back, I thought He was in the center, but only if all the things I said and I wanted could surround Him.

Needless to say, I didn't feel free, on the contrary, I felt trapped and suffocated. I was caught in a vicious cycle of expecting that "doing certain things" or a "certain someone" or "more of" would be the ticket to my train to freedom. As I was growing, I started very slowly to learn that it is not at all in the "doing" or the "somewhere", "the dream home", the "dream man". It is through the Creator who then shows us a unique path of freedom in the mind. Freedom is in the perspective we see the present moment, and life given to us directly from above.

I wanted to share this bit of a background about me for a specific reason. It is hard to write these words and share such a fragile time I experienced internally. I share this so you can understand a little more who this person is you read postings from every week. The woman some of you have written to over the last year and say, "I don't know how you do it, you are so strong." Or, "Your faith is so strong." etc. I want you to see clearly that I am NOT. I do not say this with false humility. I look at my past, who I am, who I was, what I experienced and I cry out to my Creator, "Lord! Look at me!!! Out of all the people in the world, some of whom I personally know would do better at this - why did you choose me to carry such a cross? Look at how weak my mind is! Fear, obsession and anxiety and depression were a staple food of my mind's diet for years and areas I still have much residue and stains from! Why me?!! Surely someone else is better suited than me."

After I ask this, the story of Gideon from the Old Testament came to mind. My sisters and I would watch his story as a cartoon growing up. That's still what I picture in my mind when I think of him. Gideon was a man who lived in abundant fear. He literally lived in a cave scared to see his own shadow. An angel appeared to him and told him he was to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistine's army. To make a long story short, against all odds, Gideon took only a small amount of men and with the Lord, destroyed the Philistines. Gideon did not understand why God asked him. The same question formed on his lips, "Lord, why me?! Look at me!" The answer for Gideon is the same for me. It sings loudly in my soul and I own it completely. It is so - GOD'S STRENGTH, GOD'S WILL, GOD'S POWER AND GOD'S GLORY BE SHOWN! Not Gideon's, not mine. He chooses the weak to lead the strong.

When I look back during that time in my life, without the illumination of God, I want to turn my head away because it is painful to look at it. But then the soft, strong, hand of my Jesus is placed under my chin as He lifts my head and turns my eyes towards that time and show me through His eyes, our victories won, not my failures I feel. He was pruning me, shaping me, transfiguring me. Although it may have seemed to me that I was missing out on so much and working tirelessly to all the things I wanted to be, He was showing me that all those things are simply illusions of freedom. They will die with my body. He was showing me not to be deceived. He showed me how all new life comes from dark places, from mystery. God called all of creation from darkness. Seeds are in hidden dark soil to nourish growth. Babies are fashioned in dark wombs on the woman. The light of dawn comes after the darkest hour of the night. Spring follows winter. Real life comes AFTER death. The cross promises resurrection.

So what was the new life that sprouted from that time? My Lord shows me. The things of the eternal nature, the best nature, the only nature. Things that will come with me to the Kingdom. Things that will never die, nor ever be lost. The discipline of prayer sprouted. The growing of a very real relationship with my God. The love of the depth and richness and tools of my Catholic faith. I clung to the Sacraments and teachings as my hope and daily food. I remember walking through snow storms to get to evening Mass. I had to, or I felt my soul would be lost. Perseverence shot forward from the dark soil inside my soul. Fear of God sprouted shortly after. I began to see that I am nothing and completely in His hands; that it is only He that has reign over all His dominion on earth, not my ego. I am simply blessed to be a part of it. Grace to endure a part in His Passion grew as well. I also received true and deep friendships during that time with souls who are kindred spirits. During that time, I was catching real glimpses of the reality that a soul does only find rest, find freedom in her God alone. In God, the creature drawing closer to its Creator becomes more like its authentic self and closer to the glory it was intended for from the beginning. The Creator knew I would need to learn those harder lessons young, so I could have gone through some training ground for what was to come on January 30, 2011 and for the rest of my life on this earth.

I've seen this last year that I will lose absolutely everything that has no eternal value. It will all return to dust. It is just a question of when. So I feel an urgency. I simply do not have the time to waste my time on deceptive endeavors the world lures and tempts me with. I know I will fall and at times will be deceived. But thank God for His Son and His Divine Mercy. I want Home, I want Him, and I want as St. Therese said, "I choose all." The only way to gain it all, is to lose all here and partake in His Passion, His time of transfiguring, passing, darkness.

In Christ, and the holiness of the magnificent, simple life and place God has me in, I finally find myself learning constantly how to live freely in the very present. I am finally learning and living up to my name meaning - "free tree". With eternal perspective as the glasses my eyes constantly try to adjust to, especially in this last year, my soul is breathing fresh, crisp, life-giving air. Iexperienving more freedom on more days than I EVER have. As deep and heavy the sorrow has been, the freedom days are extravagant. How wild is that? After such a life change last year, exactly this day, I can even say those words! Because real freedom doesn't change with the wind, freedom is in the complete abandonment to the will of God. It does not take away from all the agony, but I have beheld my Lord's face, in the face of true sorrow and real Truth. And yet, like a tree, I am still standing firm with roots journeying deep into the earth. Life has thrown ferocious storms, and with Heaven I have seen myself battered badly, but still standing. With glimpses and much hope of thriving into a forest. My roots continue to travel deep in the dark, mystery earth that is infinite, glorious, and ALL LOVE, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Free Tree - I like that.

Happy Feast of St. Stella!!!! THANK YOU!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Angels Angels Everywhere

Stella started to ask specifically about angels a month or so before she died. She asked me about our Guardian Angels, what they look like, if they have names, what they do etc. I told her how they are God's servants. They never lived on earth. Their only purpose is to serve the Father. I can picture her asking me if about her Angel Guardian's name. I told her she could pray and listen quietly in her soul for the answer. She said, "Well when am I suppose to hear it?" Stella was an early riser so she would lay in bed until I came to get her between 6 and 6:30. I said, "How about when you are laying in bed in the morning? You know, when it's really quiet in the house." She thought that was a great idea. And then I remembered!! I said, "Stella, when you were a baby, I started praying that I would know your Angel Guardian's name!" "You did?!" she exclaimed excitedly with her eyes lit up. "What is it?!" I prayed for months trying to know my new baby's Angel Guardian's name. The name I finally "heard" was Matthias. Stella was elated. The next day she woke up and told me how she saw her Angel Guardian. We started talking about it. Then the next morning she said, "Mom, I saw my Angel. And there were angels on the ceiling and well, actually they were everywhere in my room, Mom." I'm not sure if I really believed her then. However, I DEFINITELY believe it now.

I have to say, I know I don't utilize and talk to angels enough. I often implore the saints, but it is wise and wonderful to remember these other Spiritual Beings God created in and for His Kingdom. He gives each soul on earth one to watch over them. They are real. They are not people who have died and gone to heaven. People do not become angels. Angels are Beings of Light. They have been messengers and guardians and helpers of mankind from the beginning of time. I love hearing and reading stories about them. It is an area in my spiritual journey I want to grow in more. I know my Stella enjoys their company in the Kingdom. I want to start becoming friends with them now. They often come to prepare a person before they receive an apparition. They look upon the God Father's face always. I must ask them to teach me more about prayer and how to pray better. They are aligned perfectly in the Divine Will. They seem to be such a mystery to me. But what else is new?! We live in the Mystery all the time.

This past week has been especially hard for me. I feel so somber and alone in this. Please do not forget to pray for us even though time continues to pass. I miss my daughter. I miss everything.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Johnny's Gift

Well, I was planning on writing about more thoughts of the past week but I can't pass up telling this little story. On Saturday, we took John and Gia to a train park here. Across the street we saw a parking lot full of "cars". I guess I should back up a minute and tell you that my son, Johnny LOVES cars. They are his favorite thing. He especially enjoys cars from the Disney\Pixar movie - Cars and Cars 2. Ever since he saw the movie at age one and half, he has been obsessed with them. Anyways...back to the train park. So apparently there was some kind of car show across the street. Phillip and I thought of course that John would go nuts. We stuck to our plans though and went to the park. John was disappointed but very accepting of the fact that we weren't going to take him to the car show that day.

On Sunday morning I asked Mother Mary to help us do something special together as a family. We had the whole day because we had already gone to Mass the Saturday evening so we didn't have to go Sunday morning. We usually don't do that. I prayed and decided whatever Phillip offered as a suggestion, we would just do. I didn't want to go back and forth with ideas and then get frustrated by indecisiveness. Phillip said, "Francesca, let's go down to the parking lot again and see if the cars are still there." I tend to like to plan a little more so I told him I would look it up online first. I found out they would not be there. It apparently is this HUGE car show that people come all over the world to be a part of. It's called Barrett Jackson. Anyways, some cars started at that parking lot and were driving to the Pavilion that afternoon. We weren't sure if we had the time with Gia's nap schedule if going to a long event would be a good experience for the entire family to do. Somehow we still decided to go and check it out and we thought that maybe there would be some neat cars in the parking lot and we could get the scoop on all of it. Phillip could then wait until next weekend to take John so they wouldn't be pressed for time. It was a beautiful overcast day. The desert really did look pretty. John was going crazy just thinking about the idea of being close to all those top notch cars.

We parked and as I was unloading John, I said, "Johnny, I really think that this is going to be a gift from Stella to you." He didn't pay much attention to me as his excitement was escalating. We walked a little while and arrived at the front tent. Then all of a sudden, this man asked us if we needed tickets. He gave us one right there! We were so thankful. I went to go purchase more and he came up to me again and said "That will cover you and your husband and the children are free." We couldn't believe it. I told John again, "See, I told you this was going to be a gift from your sister." It was a heavenly confirmation to us that we were suppose to go as a family. We had a blast. I have never been to anything like that. John's joy, was our joy. It was pretty spectacular. And that comes from a non-car person. Gia was really peaceful and our family once again received heaven's love. God took care of my son in no grand spiritual way. He still wants us to enjoy our stay here on earth even if it is an exile. God created John with that love of cars he has, He wanted to bless John that day. What a loving Father. If He does that for a small soul, think of what must await each of His children at Home! He sees everything, even the smallest of details in the smallest of souls.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unexpected Beauty

I have an image that keeps coming to mind. I see a desert, flat, dry, and barren. It seems to stretch for miles. I can picture driving across the country with my family growing up. We would always travel out of state and do a road trip. We loved it. However, I remember Nevada was always the state we loathed driving through because the desert was so boring and frankly, just ugly.

Yet somehow, they still maintain life. There are creatures and plants that do use resources from such desolate looking land. Among such rough terrain, I see a flower in bloom. And I can't help but think of how the desert in appearances look awful. But as one takes a closer look, there are not only creatures that are supported by such a habitat, but beauty also blossoms. The key to it is patience and perseverance. If one waits long enough, one will actually see beautiful flowers, a place of peace, and many creatures. The beauty seen is astounding because of the secrecy and stubborn temperament it holds. It is all so unexpected.

So yes, I relate the suffering soul, my soul, to such a place. It is in hoping when hope doesn't seem possible or likely, that my soul somehow receives the grace it needs to be patient and persevere. Life is sustained, but I continue to wait for the grand and majestic blooms that the desert sometimes unveils. And when the rains come and the desert turns to green and many other colors, the life that does inhabit in it come out and rejoice, playing in such rarity.
So to does the song of my soul. It longs to burst through in extravagance in such an unlikely place. I see glimpses of this.

Also in the desert many of these happenings occur at night. Much of the activity arises after the scorching such sets and stars by the millions fill the sky. So too, the darkness of night in the soul who is living in a desert time. I believe many mysteries of beauty DO bloom and thrive when one is in such treacherous places. This is the continual hope I have and have seen pieces of. I continue to wait under this sever and merciless sun, for the merciFUL God to open the flood gates wider and pour down upon me and my family and the world so true beauty and joy will explode! For God does all things. He turns wastelands into vibrant, fertile grounds. Since He does that, think of all the possibilities there are for a willing soul. So as the new year has begun and we are approaching the one year anniversary, I look towards working hard and receiving truly a year of great restoration from my mighty, mighty Savior!

Sweet Stella, please help us.

Oh and just for an update - My birthday was very blessed today. I was missing the girl especially today, but I truly was humbled by friends and family. I feel so undeserving of such kindness and love. That is truly how I felt today - humbled and unworthy. Thank you everyone!! Why is it so hard to accept such love?!!? Heaven is working - through each of us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mishap

Hi everybody. I'm so sorry for not posting Monday. I was in California visiting my family and i got the stomach flu. We just got back in town so I'm just going to wait until this coming Monday, the 9th which is actually my birthday! Blessings.