back at it

Remember how only about five or six blog posts ago I jumped on the blog bandwagon? I hit a rather large bump in the road while questioning myself on WHY I was blogging. All of my questions were valid ideas to think about but some were a bit skewed- pointed out by probably the only two people who really read this.

I enjoy writing and therefore am going to keep this little site going for awhile longer. I’m going to be changing a few things around here. I have a couple of guidelines/safeguards for not falling into vanity and comparison.

I want to continue to talk about things that truly matter in my life as a wife, mother, woman, and Catholic. Let’s talk about things that I avoid talking about with others for fear of them thinking I am weak.

This will be a picture free blog. Let’s all fall in love with words, with language, and let those paint the picture.

I will offer some book reviews here- guilt free books that I am loving. I recently set a book aside. It was a true page turner but I knew the contents ahead would lead me to read about affairs, prostitution, and other less virtuous behavior. But where are all the good books? I’m on the hunt and I’ll keep you updated!

Are you already sleeping? Are you clicking the little exit button? That’s okay. I know someone will find this tiny corner of the internet and will value these changes!

And just to keep some spice in my life: Here are some topics you can look forward to….

Loneliness

Prayer experiences about motherhood and my desires for a job outside of the home

All of the really embarrassing things I have done in the last year…some teasers- seriously telling someone my name is Michelle and then Jack. Naked Burritos. Dresses and Band-Aids…. I bet you are on the edge of your seat…

Some book reviews

Reasons why I stopped blogging to which obviously I’m back.

….. Stay tuned 🙂

 

 

 

Speculate to Death

I was in the Target checkout line today with my Lenten pre-approved food and a huge cross of ashes on my forehead- this being said, I was preparing myself for an interesting conversation with the cashier.

I knew that today with my very outward symbol of “I’m Catholic” dusted on my forehead I was due for some questions.

Cue the cashier: “Oh is it already Ash Wednesday? I thought that was later in Lent. My friend is Catholic.” Cue more conversation on explaining Ash Wednesday, ashes, fasting, etc. If you would like this explained to you please see here.

Just as I am packing up my bags the cashier asks, “So what are you personally giving up for Lent?” As to which I respond, “Facebook.” Which in turn brings about a mocking and condescending comment/voice inflexion of, “Oh, that must be really hard for you.”

I smiled and said, “Yes, it will be hard.” While walking out of Target today I was pretty mad, my pride was limping behind me…hurt. My thoughts ensued- Wow, this cashier must think I’m addicted to Facebook and that it is going to be so very painful to give it up for 40 whole days. Gosh, and I look like I am 12 and I have a child….I probably look a bit insane.

 The whole drive home I couldn’t get my mind off of what this cashier must have been thinking about me. Seriously for 15 whole minutes I let my mind wander through the negative possibilities.

—- You know that one sin that you do so often that it is hard for you to recognize if you are not really intentional…for me that sin is speculation. Here I was speculating about what this cashier was speculating about me. Speculation leads me to believe the worst about people. It makes me think that people have a horrible intention behind their actions- that their first goal is to hurt me in some way.

Speculation- When hearing what someone is giving up for Lent I am immediately driven to think about the possibilities on why it is so hard for them to give up. I usually come up with the most horrendous reason on why this would be so difficult for them.

I allowed my joy to be stolen today when I opened up the bag of speculation and thought about the worst intentions of this cashier—sure her tone was not friendly but why carry out a comment and think so deeply about it that it hurts your feelings. For me, speculation allows for Satan to play up some lies that he wants me to believe about myself?

I have to constantly remind myself to not think the worst of people’s intentions. Come Holy Spirit. So here is to the Lent that I break this habitual sin of speculation. Please pray for me!

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A Veil of Prayer

I am a lover of words. When there are words that accompany beautiful actions- I am hooked. This is when the words can bring tears to my eyes while I recall them.

I was graced with one of these moments, when words and actions collided so beautifully over Christmas break. These words were about two people; a mother and father which then extended to a bride and groom.

The bride- She is the woman that can look you straight in the eyes and just “be.” One week before her wedding she sat in a coffee shop with me. While her words gathered around the things they still needed to do, her eyes shone with a contentment and anticipation of the Sacrament she was about to enter.

She is beautiful. She is gentle and she loves intensely.

 

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Thanks Arianne for the photo!

 

The groom- He is a man that genuinely lights up when speaking with. One week before his wedding he was at a Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ Student Leadership Summit inviting college students to come to know Christ in a more intimate relationship. He was teaching others how to share Christ.

He is welcoming. He is passionate and he is faithful.

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They exchanged their vows in the midst of many family, friends, and most importantly in front of God. They are united forever, as one.

The words that have resonated with me these past two weeks were spoken lovingly by the bride’s father in his toast.

In his gentle and quiet voice he profoundly spoke about the love that he and his wife share for their eldest daughter. He told us about how when the bride and her siblings were growing up his wife was determined to give them a mother’s blessing every day before they went out the door.

How sometimes she would battle between eye rolls and disdained sighs. But every day, his wife was persistent and she would place a hand on her children while saying her prayer.

Once the bride went off to college, she was no longer in their immediate care. Her mother could not touch her everyday and bless her but they veiled her in prayer from afar.

They prayed that God would bring her a gentle, loving, and compassionate man to marry. They prayed every day for their daughter, that God would protect her.

And here we all are, God is faithful. That veil of prayer came to bear fruit. The words met with the actions— he took his wife’s hand, leaned over the table, and repeated the mother’s blessing that was said for so many years over the bride and groom.

 

Blessing the new extension of their family, again veiling them in prayer.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.

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Amanda Hilger Photography

Praise you Jesus for offering us such examples of faith! Thanks for reading.

 Congratulations, Shane and Marah Van Diest!

 

We love you.

 

A New Year

I sit here with a homemade wine spritzer while fighting the urge to go eat all of the Christmas candy. I LOVE candy. I enjoy chocolate once in awhile but I prefer straight. up. sugar.

I could choose to go eat the rest of the huckleberry truffles that my brother gave to my parents for Christmas (I know, it’s selfish.) Or I could choose not to….

Okay, maybe I already ate half of them (like I said….selfish.)

The new year is a chance for a new beginning. It’s an invitation.

I can choose to

not eat the rest of those truffles,

to be a better wife to my husband,

to not allow a word that is F in nature through gritted teeth when my baby wakes up for the fifth time at night,

to give more praise and thanks to God in how He is loving me in my everyday life,

to put down my phone and,

to not turn away from conflict or the vulnerability of others.

I often forget that I don’t need to wait until January 1st to begin anew. We are given a new start in everyday that God allows us to breathe.

So here’s to a new year and another opportunity to serve our Lord!

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What are you choosing to do with your new year? I’m taking my glass of wine and diving into Jane Austen’s Emma, while my husband rides a bus for 18 hours to Dallas, and I pray that my son doesn’t wake up for at least another 2 hours….It’s a work in progress!

 

Thanks for reading and have a happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of James

James just turned five months old! He is such a sweetheart and also a little stinker.

In these past five months, I am continuously inspired by the love of a child. The look he gives people is incredible. The joy he brings people is amazing.

I’ve really seen this while bringing James with me to meet with students on the UF Campus. There have been two times that I have walked away from an encounter, my heart stirring from the love my child has shown a stranger.

What’s so incredible about it is that it’s natural. A love embedded into my child’s nature- simply because he was made in the image and likeness of God- like all of us……but James has been untainted by selfishness, by sin (Thanks Baptism for wiping out that Original Sin!)

About these two encounters. The first I took James to meet up with Catherine- a senior that I met earlier this year at a Newman Club Dinner. My intention for our meeting was to get to know her better and ask her into a Bible Study.

Catherine and I decided to meet up at the Dunkin’ Donuts next to our Church. As soon as we walked in many of the cashiers fawned over James, reaching out to hold his hand or tell him how cute he is. James is quick to smile and gave all of these people huge grins.

What really touched me was while Catherine was holding James I was able to see how the students walking in and waiting in line were reacting to my son. Young and old, men and women, were openly receiving joy from my son’s smiles.

I was struck while watching this with a thought and prayer that if anyone in this room had encouraged someone they knew to have an abortion or were contemplating/suffering from having an abortion that their heart would be open to choosing life and for healing.

A prayer that they would receive deep joy from the sight of my son- from the sight of life.

The next encounter: There are many homeless people in Gainesville. The warmer weather brings many people here rather than up north. It’s an area that I am not accustomed to. I’ve encountered people who are homeless in controlled settings of soup kitchens etc.

Here I have had many encounters with homeless men and women catching me off guard in my everyday life. I am thankful that God continues to stretch my heart with these encounters.

In particular there are a couple of men who hang around our Catholic Center. I’ve had conversations with them before by my child. My five month old baby took love even further.

He reaches out for their hands. To touch them. To hold them.

My baby- unaware of the repercussions and beauty of his actions is teaching me to love.

I recently started a book on Blessed Mother Teresa. Her mom, Drana,  responded to a question about who the people were that she kept inviting to eat with them, “Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people.”

My baby is asking me- showing me how to live this out.

 

Thank you Jesus for the gift of James.

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My Son, the Stage Five Clinger: 7QT

Here goes my first “Seven Quick Takes” or 7QT: Does anyone know where this idea came from? Please let me know if you do. Essentially they are seven “quick” snippets from one’s life. So here we go.

  1. James, the stage five clinger. I believe this has something to do with the fact that we were in Auburn, Alabama for Halloween weekend. We got together with a bunch of Southeast FOCUS missionaries and James basked in the glory of being held and snuggled every waking and “non-waking” (yes, I know that’s not a word) second. It was such a blast and we were hosted by the Hines family (Hinish, not Heinz like the ketchup). Emily has become a dear friend of mine. Their son, JohnMark is only five weeks older than James and it was so fun to watch him inchworm around. James wasn’t too sure about having another adorable baby around…jm

2. Also from last weekend: Team UF took home the gold in the costume contest with our idea of “90s toys.” Joseph was a G.I. Joe, Nolan was a Gameboy Color, Katelyn was a Ferby (still creepy), Ari was an Easybake Oven (she even handed out cookies, bribing the judges), James was a Troll Doll (his hair was blue but it was too cold to go in his diaper), and I was a Doodle Bear.

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Overall, it was a better idea than the first one of going as “The Villages” a well known retirement community in Florida just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Gainesville (I was totally sold on this one!)

James was also Dobby at our Catholic Center’s Hurlwurts (Hurley Hall turned Hogwarts) surprise for the UF Students. See below: Bellatrix hanging out with Dobby.

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3. Lately, and induced by the level of clingy-ness of my son I have found it really difficult to “joyfully sacrifice.” Yes, I sacrifice….but gosh it’s not joyful. Maybe I will write more on this subject at another time.

Now that James likes to play with his toes, he thinks they can go everywhere!
Now that James likes to play with his toes, he thinks they can go everywhere!

In the meantime- will you pray for me that I may invite God into the sacrifices I am facing? They are nothing huge, but I am finding it difficult to choose joy when my son is screaming for me to hold him for what seems like the hundredth time in a minute. Thanks in advance!

4. It’s beautiful to see how the Holy Spirit lines so many things up in life. This summer, my friend Jessica, gave me the “I Thirst” meditation by Blessed Mother Teresa. It is heart achingly beautiful. I have kept it in my Bible, just because(Step one from Holy Spirit).

I noticed a man in the line for Confession and he looked  uncomfortable. I could tell he was a fraternity member as he was wearing “comfort colors” and “chubbies”…..It’s a southern thing. The line was really long- which is great- but I really hoped that he would have a chance to go. The people in the chapel started praying “Liturgy of the Hours” which added to the apparent uncomfortable nature of the man, because he was unsure as to what was going on.

(Step Two Holy Spirit) I went to give this guy the “I Thirst” meditation while he waited in line. Hey! It couldn’t hurt! The time for Confession continued to pass and the line was still slowly moving.

(Step Three Holy Spirit) One of our priests, Father David came to the rescue- really out of the blue- and asked the line (this specific man) if he would like to start a new line.

(Step Four Holy Spirit) The girl in front of this guy allowed him to go first, once he came out of the Confessional there was not enough time for more to be heard before Mass.

(Step Five Holy Spirit) This guy came to return the meditation, his eyes brimming with joy and whispering repeatedly, “Thank you, thank you so much.”

Thank you for lining that all up Holy Spirit!

4.  I had a “Mom Date” on Friday night. It was with Emily (Hinish, mentioned earlier) and Shelby. They are both FOCUS missionaries. We span the country and three different time zones. I ended up getting the latest end of the meeting which we all thought was funny because I am the one that goes to bed the earliest. Intentional friendship is so beautiful. I am still thanking God for placing these two women in my life. They help make me feel a bit more sane about the things I am struggling with as a mom/wife.

5. Nolan was gone this weekend at a FOCUS Interview Weekend in Philly. Cue more added clingy-ness from little James. I will not divulge how much coffee I have consumed as I know Nolan will read this and comment on how that is not good for my health 🙂 I was able to finish my Saint Dolls- Saint Therese- with the help a.k.a. free labor/company from my teammate, Ari and friend, Tonia! Thanks ladies!!! You’ve saved me a lot of time!

Therese
Anything artistic looking is credit to Ari.

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6. James and I were going to go to the Gator Homecoming Parade this weekend after Adoration. I even put James in his cute cowboy boots to celebrate.

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Look at James’ leg rolls! And yes, I was sweating to death in a cardigan.

We then we found out that they don’t throw out candy. We dumped that idea pretty quickly. Temps in the high 80s, a baby who wants to be held the whole time, and NO candy…..I’m outta there.

7. I have started to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen out loud to James. I was reading it while feeding James and thought, “Heck, let’s start him young on classic literature!”

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He babbles loudly as I read- probably in retort to the mean Bingley girls.

Thanks for reading, sorry they weren’t really quick! I’ll get better, I promise!  I hope you have a great week!

Visiting Our Friend, Maria

Last week, James and I drove to Ocala to visit our friend, Maria.

I tried to talk James into looking more presentable to see Maria but he insisted on the mohawk.
I tried to talk James into looking more presentable to see Maria but he insisted on the mohawk.

Our friend happens to be a saint- Saint Maria Goretti to be exact. She is deceased and her body (covered in wax so you aren’t just staring at a skeleton) is being toured around the United States for the next few weeks.

Does that sound really strange to you? Let me try to explain-

Maria Goretti died at age 11. She was murdered, brutally stabbed because she wouldn’t sleep with her neighbor, Alesandro. The doctors tried to stop the internal bleeding from the 14 stab wounds and while they operated they could not offer little Maria any pain relief. Maria did not utter a sound in pain. The bleeding would not stop and her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”

While in prison (a 30 year sentence), Alesandro lived a dark and desperate life for six years. One night he had a dream of Maria in a garden where she slowly handed him 14 white lilies (a flower that symbolizes purity), one for each time he stabbed her. He was so overwhelmed with love and forgiveness that Maria had shown him he strove for the rest of his life to live a life of virtue and love.

When Alesandro was released from prison, he went to see Maria’s mother whom had already forgiven him and adopted him into her family sometime later.

Can you imagine?

The Catholic Church canonized Maria Goretti (publicly declaring that she is in fact a saint- we absolutely know she is in Heaven) on June 24, 1950. We celebrate her on July 6th. You can read a more detailed account about Maria here and about how someone becomes a saint here.

Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Maria Goretti. What does that mean? Since we know Maria is in Heaven, we ask her to join in our prayers and bring them to Christ.

Okay, so back to the part where I went to visit the body of a person I’ve never met personally. Is that still a bit strange to wrap your thoughts around? Let’s put it this way- If you were inspired by the way a person had lived their life, you would maybe go visit their grave stone to remember them if given the chance. Well, many people have come to love Maria- and because she is a saint with miracles attributed to her intercession- she has become a popular person to visit (You don’t have to visit her to ask for her intercession, a simple prayer will do!)

I went to see Maria with specific prayer intentions for friends, family, and myself. When I entered the church that Maria was in there was an instant sense of peace. The display she is carried in was lit up with beautiful lighting and they had large banners hanging up so that people waiting could read about her life.

James was smiling and staring at Maria while we approached. I’d like to think it was because they are good friends but I think it was more so because of the bright lights—I shall allow myself to think it was for both of those reasons!

I knelt down and placed my hand on the display. I was immediately overwhelmed with the thought, “His mercy endures forever.” Such a simple statement, but yet Maria continues to lead us to Christ- to point to Him in all things.

His mercy endures forever.

Let’s just sit with that truth.

His mercy endures forever.

Forever

What a beautiful promise- a striking reality.

St. Maria Goretti- our friend- pray for us.