Tag Archives: family

The Blessing of the Blessed Mother

devotionla-songs-of-mother-maryThanksgiving is just a few days away and it seems only natural that our thoughts turn to the many blessings we have to be thankful for. My mind goes to the usual things, my loving husband, my wonderful family, our goofy dog, our home, our health, our food, our freedom, and of course the love of our Savior. This year I have another to add to my list.

Mary.

I am currently going through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat in preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  When I first began the retreat, I will admit I was a little nervous.  I love Mary but wanted to make sure that this consecration would lead me ultimately not to her alone, but to Christ.  While parts of the readings have taken some prayer and contemplation to better grasp, they have opened my eyes and my heart to Mary’s presence in my life in a new way.

Looking back at my childhood it seems that there was no escaping the love of Mother Mary.  We were taught the Hail Mary and the Rosary, we had beautiful holy cards and statues of the Blessed Mother as reminders of her perfect example, we watched animated children’s videos of Mary appearing in Fatima and in Lourdes.  Even the parish I grew up in, Immaculate Conception was named in honor of Mary.  The importance of Mary in our faith was never lost on me as I grew up.  It was so instilled in me that I took it for granted and failed to realize what an enormous blessing it is to be able to walk this journey of faith with Mary by our side. When I think back again to that list of things I am thankful for, I can see Mary working within each one.

When I met my husband it was not long before I knew he was the one I was meant to be with.  But before I could make that decision, I remember praying deeply for guidance.  I prayed for God to show me if this was truly the man He had meant for me.  And I prayed for Mother Mary to guide me to be the wife God had called me to be.  On our wedding day, amidst the flurry of activities and emotions, I remember going over to the statue of the Blessed Mother during Mass to offer flowers up to Our Lady and take a moment to pray for her guidance in our marriage.  Yes Mary was certainly present in bringing my husband and I together and she has been there guiding us in our love for each other and for the Lord ever since.

As I mentioned before, devotion to Mary was instilled in my sisters and I from an early age.  Our parents and grandparents showed us just how important she is in our lives.  And I strongly believe that the faith we learned as children formed the foundation not only for the faith that we share today, but for the deep relationships I share with my family even now that we are grown and scattered across the country.

My goofy little puggle.  You might be wondering how in the world Mary’s presence in my life relates to my dog.  I believe that I am called to care for a family.  I have spent countless hours in prayer for that to happen.  But God’s ways are not my own and He has a perfect plan for us to one day have a child.  In the meantime, my motherly energy goes toward my pup.  And in the morning, when I say my Rosary and my little dog curls up next to me quiet as can be as if she knows this is prayer time, I know that Mary is there bringing me to God and helping me to be patient and enjoy the time with my little puggle while I wait for the blessing of a baby.

Our home, health, food, freedom…Mary is there in all of it.  Through times of job searching, apartment searching, doctor’s appointments, Mary is there.  Even if we do not always see it, she is there nudging us closer to God as we face each decision in life.  There showing us the deep love of the Father as we see the blessings He has poured out for us.

Mary’s yes to being the mother of Our Lord showed us the way in which we are all called to respond to the Lord.  She accepted the will of the Lord without knowing exactly how it would all play out.  She placed her trust fully in God as she raised the child Jesus.  She was with Him as a baby, as a child, as a man.  She was there for His miracles, for His joys, for His suffering.  She stood by His side through it all, even at the foot of the cross.  The love she has for Jesus is deep and pure.  And it is that love that she wants to share with us.  To show us how to love the Lord more perfectly.

Mary’s presence in our lives is a wondrous mystery that is truly something to be thankful for.  To have the mother of our Lord guiding us every step of the way so that we may become more of the people God has called us to be is such a blessing.  As we take a special moment to thank the Lord for all that we have, let us remember to thank Him for the blessing of His Blessed Mother Mary who leads us to a deeper love for Christ our Lord.

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The Power of True Love

I love animation.  I love the beautiful artwork and intricate details that go into an animated film.  I love the way a drawing on a piece of paper or computer can come to life and tell a story.  And I love Disney.  It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I absolutely adore Disney’s newest animated film, “Frozen.”

The movie is everything you could want from Disney: stunning animation, heartfelt music, well-rounded and developed characters, laughs for kids and adults as well, and a wonderful message.  And while the music is still going through my head and the characters are not ones that will easily be forgotten, it is the message that sticks with me the most.  It is a message that is common in movies; the power of true love.  But what is unusual in “Frozen” is that it shows true love as not just romantic love, but places perhaps an even stronger emphasis on familial love.

There is one song called “Fixer Upper” that I particularly enjoyed because of its refreshing look at love.  The song starts as a comical look into the perceived flaws of two of the characters before the real message comes across:  Nobody is perfect, but true love is about looking past the little things and working together.  Take a look:

People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed
But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out the best

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper
That’s what it’s all about
Father, sister, brother
We need each other
To raise us up and round us out

In our society today, where marriage is often seen as a casual decision and quickly followed by divorce when any troubles arise, this message is quite welcome!  What makes it even better is that it takes the definition of true love and applies it within the family as well as within romantic relationships.

This song, this movie, is not talking about an idealistic love that is always perfect and easy.  Rather it is talking about actual true love. The true love that we read about in 1 Corinthians 13.  A love that is patient and kind instead of envious, boastful, or rude.  A love that doesn’t insist on its own way, is not irritable, and rejoices with the truth.  A love that always believes, hopes and endures.

Both the familial relationships and the romantic ones are put to the test in Disney’s “Frozen.”  But rather than become angry or bitter, this movie shows instead how true love means forgiveness, understanding, and looking past our flaws.  It shows how people can be misunderstood and sometimes just need to be shown what true love actually is.

It is a welcome message in our world today.  Sometimes families fight.  Sometimes couples argue.  Sometimes the differences between us seem too big and we are tempted to give up.   But true love does not give up.  Our Lord never gives up on us despite our mistakes.  If we wander away from Him, He still welcomes us back home and in fact rejoices in our return to Him! 

We are called as Christians to exhibit this same sort of love.  Forgiving, understanding, patience, and kindness shared with our families, in our marriages, in our friendships, and even in the relationships we form with acquaintances and co-workers.  We are called to shine true love to strangers, to neighbors, even to enemies.  Not a one among us is perfect, but rather than turn away when things get tough, rather than focus on flaws and hurt that we have from the past, we are called to still show true love.  Because true love is powerful indeed.

“People who love each other fully and truly are the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another.” – Blessed Mother Teresa”

Happy Anniversary!

Tomorrow my husband and I will celebrate our 2nd anniversary as a married couple! In some ways I cannot believe it has been two whole years! It seems like yesterday we were planning the wedding, decorating the hall, and standing up in front of our family, friends, and God to pledge our love and lifelong commitment to each other. In other ways, though, it seems much longer than two years as I feel like I have known my husband forever!

I don’t mean to make this a mushy post…but I think it is important to focus on the wonderful blessings we have! Sometimes it can be easy to focus on we we lack or what we think is best for us instead of trusting in our Father’s plan. I know for me I sometimes get caught up in finances, those darn student loans, someday buying a house, and hoping for a baby. And while there is nothing wrong with saving money for a house, cutting out some extras to try and erase those student loans quicker, and praying that we might be blessed with a child, I have to make sure that those things do not become my focus. I have to be sure that I do not spend my energy on devising plans for the future rather than taking in the moments God has given me now. It is so important for us to count our blessings and praise the Lord for all He has given us. Nothing lifts your spirits more than taking in the wonder that surrounds you and praising the Creator of it all.

I feel very blessed to have such an amazing man in my life. He is so romantic, sweet, funny, smart, handsome, and most of all, he brings me closer to God. I thank the Lord everyday for bringing us together and I wanted to share with you today this song. It was our first dance at our wedding reception and I just think it is lovely. Enjoy!

Sunshine on my Shoulders

Growing up our family always went on vacations over the summer. We camped, which meant we always drove to our destination. Our trips ranged from a long weekend camping trip only an hour away, to a 10 hour drive to the ocean for a week long camping trip. Our longest vacation was when I was in high school and my parents took my three sisters and myself on a three week cross country camping trip. These trips were not fancy resorts, were not ridiculously expensive hotels with top notch amenities, but they were the best vacations I ever could have asked for. I remember people saying after our cross country trip, “Wow three weeks together in a car and little pop-up camper? You guys must have driven each other crazy!” But we didn’t. I don’t remember any fights at all. Maybe a small argument here or there if someone crossed the imaginary line between your seat and the seat next to you in the car. Perhaps an occasional grumble over whether or not someone was hogging the blankets at night. But fights? No.

We enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed, we sat around the campfire talking, telling jokes, and roasting marshmallows. We hiked, we swam, and we just stood admiring God’s creation. We took photos and divided them up so each of us kids could make our own photo album of our adventure and I still look through those photos today. But more than photos or small souvenirs, we have amazing memories. Memories of hiking in the Rocky Mountains topped with snow. Memories of wading in the freezing Lake Tahoe waters because we just had to go in! Memories of standing in the quiet of the Redwood Forest feeling like a tiny ant surrounded with these massive trees and ferns. Memories of holding hands and stretching our arms as far as possible to see if we could reach around the enormous trunks of these great trees (which we couldn’t!) Memories of visiting the Pacific Ocean and watching the waves crash on the shore. Memories of wearing our rain ponchos as we visited the Sequoia National Forest and the massive trees that seem to reach all the way to heaven. Memories of hiking around the Grand Canyon and watching the beautiful colors change as the sun set and storms began to form on the other side.

Whenever we traveled as a family, certain music was involved. Radio stations were sometimes hard to find so we would accompany our road trips with the same tried and true cassette tapes and eventually CDs. There are certain musical memories that stick out in my mind: Raffi, various Disney tunes, Silly Songs with Larry from Veggie Tales, The Beach Boys, The Eagles, my parents playing “Name that Tune” to the local classic rock stations – but most of all John Denver. My parents love John Denver and his music went with us on any family trip. Not only did we listen to these songs, but we all sang along. You know how sometimes you will see a teenage kid going down the road with his boom box blasting and the car shaking from the loud, pounding bass? Well that is how we listened to John Denver. Volume up, bass up, singing our hearts out. Even as adults we still do this. I had to give my husband fair warning before he traveled with my family for the first time – There would be family singing of good old John Denver involved in this trip! “Take me Home Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Fly Away,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and my favorite, “Sunshine on my Shoulders.”

My family is a bit spread out now and we don’t have the luxury of lengthy vacations together anymore. School and work have taken us to different states and our schedules are a lot harder to match up. Nevertheless, we are closer than ever in our relationships, talking almost daily via phone, text, email, or video chats, and we look forward to the time we do get to spend together in person. This past weekend I was blessed to have my Mom come into town for a visit. We talked, laughed, played games, cooked, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It was such a wonderful visit! Yesterday we went to surprise my Grandma for her 85th birthday. She lives just over an hour from me and didn’t know my husband and I were coming, let alone my Mom! Grandpa and my other aunts, uncles and cousins all managed to keep it a secret and Grandma was so surprised to see us! We had a wonderful day and at the end of it, I said goodbye to Mom so she could spend the next two days with her mother before flying back home.

Last night I was feeling a bit bummed out, as I always do when family visits are over. It seems they are too few and far between. This morning I woke up and the sun was shining bright, which has been rare lately. I thought about my family and the upcoming group camping trip we have planned. I thought back on all our memories of vacations in the past and “Sunshine on my Shoulders” popped into my head.

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine, almost always, makes me high”

I felt like the memories of childhood vacations and the promise of wonderful things to come with my husband and the family we might one day have became the sunshine on my shoulders this morning. Thinking about memories from the past is wonderful, but can sometimes make me cry. But when I look at how lovely the sunshine is in my life now, what wondrous things God has given to me, I feel happy. I feel high and uplifted by God and the love that surrounds me from my husband, my parents, my sisters, and entire family. The wonderful memories of the past were filled with love and joy and that inner sense of faith, love, and family has stayed with me and paved the way for new wonderful memories. Memories of meeting my husband for the first time. Of that moment when we knew God meant for us to be together. Memories of our engagement, of sharing the news with all my family and friends that we were getting married. Memories of our wonderful wedding day, of moving together, of adopting our cute little pup. Memories of our own vacations and day trips to parks, of visiting the lake, the ocean, amusement parks, and ballparks. And we have so many more memories to make! With such lovely memories behind me and such faith filled hopes and dreams of the future, it seems the sunshine isn’t just on my shoulders but filling my heart and soul too!

I have so much to be grateful for, why focus on the physical distance between family? I have my incredible husband, my adorable dog, our lovely home, our wonderful church, my loving family and the amazing technology that keeps us so close even now, marvelous memories of times gone by, and the warm sunshine on my shoulders, sent from the Father above, making me happy.

My Far Away Family

We are all settled into our new place and loving it! The apartment is so much bigger, so much nicer, in such a better community and neighborhood than before, right next to a beautiful little park, and yet I’ve found myself feeling a bit down lately.  As my husband was searching for work, we were just praying and praying for a job anywhere he could find one.  We knew that with today’s economy we couldn’t be picky with location.  And as we prayed, we always asked that, if possible, we find a job near at least some family.  We knew it would never be possible to be near both of our families since my parents live a good 700 miles away from my husband’s.  We searched for jobs near my family, his family, and everywhere in between!  And we were incredibly blessed that he found a wonderful job in his field and near family.  Near his family that is.

To be fair, it is not only near his family.  I have aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and friends within an hour drive of our new location.  I grew up just over an hour away from where we are now.  But my parents and my sisters are a minimum of 700 miles away.  My father had a job transfer while I was in college that took the family a good 11 hour drive away.  I chose to stay at my school and the decision definitely paid off since I met my husband through a friend at school and through our attending the same Parish.  But it has still always been hard being so far from my family.

I am very blessed that I get along so well with my husband’s family.  You always hear people complaining or getting into huge arguments and fights over in-law issues.  I am very happy to be able to say in all honesty that I love my in-laws, that my husband loves my family, that they all love him, and even that his family and mine get along so well together!  It makes holidays, get togethers, and just everything so much easier!

All that being said, while I am certainly very aware of my blessings, it doesn’t change the fact that I am only able to visit with my family maybe twice a year.  Sometimes that bothers me more than other times.  And lately, I’ve been in a place where it’s been on my mind a lot.  In our old place, we were a good 3 hours from his family and had no other family near us.  When we moved there, we didn’t know anyone.  It was like we were both in this together.  Now, in our new place, it’s different.  My husband’s parents are only 15 minutes away from us (and honestly, that’s if there’s traffic.) While I’m so happy to be near family, it’s been tough.  It’s hard to know that we can decide on a whim to meet up with his brothers and their girlfriends one night just for fun.  Or that with a short notice we can just pop by to say hi.  That we can have them over anytime we want to see new decor, to try out a new recipe, or just to visit.  It’s hard to know all of that and then to sit and realize I haven’t seen my sisters since Christmas and it won’t be until this Christmas that I am able to visit with them in person again.  Today’s technology makes it a lot easier.  We can text, Facebook, call, or even video chat with each other.  And I’m very thankful for that.  But there are days when I really just want to show my mom a new dress I made.  Or share a new recipe with my sister.  Or just take a walk in the park with my Dad and their new family dog.

As soon as I start to have these thoughts I begin to feel selfish.  What right do I have to feel sad about being far from family?  I am blessed to have a family I can keep in touch with and that I am so close with.  I am so thankful for the technology we do have.  I am so thankful that my family is all in good health and that we are financially steady enough to see them at least once or twice a year.  And I know how incredibly blessed we are to have my husband get such an amazing job opportunity right our of grad school and close to family that I love, even if it’s not my parents or sisters.  The truth is, we could have ended up in the middle of nowhere without any family at all which would have been so much harder.  And there are many people who live so close to family but don’t get along.  Many others still who can’t afford to visit relatives or who don’t have families to even visit. 

I am so so very thankful that even though we were not able to visit my family this summer and they were not all able to come visit us, my mom was able to get a flight to come see our new place.  She stayed with us all last week while my husband started his first week of work and we had the best time. We visited, we talked, we prayed, we decorated, we cooked, we just had the best time.  That was such a blessing.  Since I have not found work yet, once my husband leaves for work in the morning, it is easy to get a little bored, a little lonely.  Having my mom with me especially the first week my husband was working full-time at the new job was just wonderful.  And I suppose it is the fact that a few days ago she left that is making me miss her and my Dad and sisters all the more.

While my mom was here we talked about how hard it can sometimes be.  We talked about how we both have days where we really miss each other.  And then we started talking about God’s Will.  We started talking about how Mother Mary said YES to God.  And how that YES changed her life forever.  She traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem while pregnant with Jesus.  She was not surrounded by her parents and family when she gave birth to our Lord.  And she was not able to rush over the next day and show her mother her beautiful grandson.  Instead, she and Joseph were on the run in Egypt to protect the baby Jesus from Herod’s decree.  Despite the fact that Mary was not near her parents or birth family.  She was doing God’s will and was with her husband and with the Lord.  And throughout the life of Jesus, Mary watched her precious Son grow up and travel around, only to be put to death.  Still, she remained faithful to God’s will.

While my mom was here with me she said she often thinks that perhaps we are all spread out because we are needed in different parts of the world.  My sisters are in various states for college.  All of us are spread out.  But all of us are very serious in our faith.  Perhaps God has placed us in different locations so that we can help share our faith with many people in many places.

I know there are days when I will miss being close to my mom.  I know there are times when I will hear a friend talk about stopping by her parents after work just for a visit and I will wish I could do the same.  I know there are times when I will think about when one day I have children of my own and how I will be able to share that joy with my mother when she is far away.  But when I am faced with those thoughts, I know I just need to trust.  To trust in God and be thankful for all that I do have. A loving husband.  Wonderful in-laws close by.  Extended family and friends only an hour away.  And I can’t forget my wonderful little pup who keeps me company throughout the day! And the technology to remain close with my sisters, my mom, and my dad, even though hundreds of miles may separate us.  We are blessed to have the relationships that we do with each other and I know that.  I know that God has a plan for me and my husband and for my parents and sisters as well.  I know that even on days where my husband is at work late and I am home by myself, I am never truly alone.  I know that God is always by my side.  I know His angels are watching over me.  And I know that when times get tough, I can give always call and of my sisters, my mom, or my dad just to chat.  But more importantly, when I start to feel sad, I know I can call on my Heavenly Father and the intercession of Mother Mary to remind me I am never truly alone and to wrap me in the peace of Our Lord as I pray for the strength to do His will. 

A New Page

There are so many people we meet in our lives.  Friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, and so on.  It has been said that our lives are like a long chapter book.  Some people are simply in our lives for a few pages.  Some may make up entire chapters.  Some are the core characters that are with you for the whole story.  And some people are the very binding that hold the book together.  As I’m preparing to move and start a new chapter in life, I’ve been thinking more about this. 

I truly believe that God sends people into our lives for a reason.  Some of those people may be in your life to help you through a particularly difficult time.  Some may be there so you can help them through a tough time.  Some are there to make you laugh.  Some are there for when you cry.  And some are there for everything.

I never close the book on a friendship.  But sometimes, there are simply too many pages in between where we left off.  So much has happened in those in between chapters, that you just realize those people may have been in your life for only a chapter or so.  In the recent chapters of my life, so much has changed.  I have moved, started a new job, met new people, gotten married, and am preparing to move again.  But more than that has changed.  A part of me has changed. 

When I met my husband, I changed.  I know that God meant for us to be together because from the day I met my husband, my faith has grown stronger every day.  And what is more, my desire to have a stronger faith, to be more connected with God, to be more Christ-like, has grown.   Since I met my husband, I simply feel more connected to God.  I don’t have all the same interests I used to.  Instead of hanging out all night with friends, I would rather enjoy a walk in the park appreciating the nature God gave us and spending a relaxing evening with my husband.  It’s a change I’m happy with! 

Anybody that comes into your life and immediately makes you want to be a better person and be closer to God is certainly more than a chapter in life.  They become the very binding of the book.  And those pages and chapters from before?  Well some of them are still very much a part of the story.  They embrace me even as I change into what I hope is a better person.  They embrace my husband as well, and have gotten to know us together.  But there are some people from my past whose pages are now out of touch with the very binding that holds the story together.  They may not know my husband, my interests, the things that make me, me. 

So, as I prepare to turn the page into a new chapter, I am thankful for the friends I have met along the way.  I am hopeful that many of my new friends will continue on in my story.  I am happy to say that I have no regrets on any past friendships and that I truly wish the best for all those who have been in my life, whether for one page, or for a few chapters.  But the pages keep turning and like keeps moving forward.  More than anything, I am so blessed to have the people that I do in my life for my next chapter.  I have been blessed with a wonderful family that I remain very close to.  I have some amazing friends who through all of the changes have remained close and have always been there for me.  And I have my truly incredible husband.  The man who stole my heart and who I married just over a year ago.  The man who from the very beginning has inspired me to grow spiritually.  The man who holds it all together for me, who puts things into perspective for me, who loves me unconditionally, who motivates me, and who makes me a better person.  With my family, friends, my wonderful husband, and Our Heavenly Father who I know is always with me, I can’t think of a better place to be or better people to be surrounded by as the next page turns.