Browsing Category

Catholicism

Catholicism

Why I Wanted To Hate #Edel But Couldn’t

July 26, 2015

The Edel Gathering for Catholic women was July 10-11th in Charleston, SC.

That means this blog post is a bit late to the party. It’s alright to judge me a little. ūüėČ

So who in their right mind would want to hate a conference of Catholic women?

Bitter, jealous, and infertile little old me from one year ago.

I’d heard about the first Edel Gathering and saw all the gushing blog posts that followed. last year. It seemed like in order to attend you needed to have a cool mom blog and tons of kids to blog about.

None of which applied to my life…leaving me feeling completely excluded and on the outside. It was pretty darn easy to hate Edel a year ago.

But then something happened.

God worked on my heart and freed me from former bitterness and jealousy. I became a mom through the blessing of adoption.¬†And¬†a dear friend from college invited me to sign up when I was delirious with an 8-day-old baby at home. ūüôā

I am glad I got to go and actually experience the conference as opposed to sitting on the sidelines making judgey eyes. Below are my biggest takeaways from Edel 2015:

1. Abandonment To God’s Will Leads To Joy

Of course since I had Josephine with me I couldn’t find the ability to actually write down all the amazing quotes shared on this topic…so I can’t really share with you any quality content, just my reflections.

Whoops.

Throughout all the speakers I felt the Holy Spirit telling me LOUD. AND. CLEAR. that only in God’s will for my life is where my joy lies.

Not in someone else’s situation. Not when things are only going “well” according to my standards. Not when I reach x, y, or z state in life that I am not currently at.

His will TODAY is where my joy can be found. Accepting whatever comes with peace and trust with ungripped hands will wash away my stress, anxiety, and fear that all too often hold me captive and unable to live my vocation to the full.

2. I Am Not Alone

If I had $1 for the times I felt alone this past year I’d be a very rich woman indeed.

Staying home with Josie has been undoubtedly one of my BEST decisions but it’s the HARDEST thing I’ve personally ever done.

It was a looooong winter and the days sort of blended together. Thanks be to God I had a few other Mommas I knew going through the same stages with babies almost identical in age to Josephine.

But the loneliness still crept in on those long snowy days. I think the Devil is an expert at isolation in general but it was unreal how lonely I got those days on end where I never left the house.

Just knowing other moms are out there feeling the¬†same thing was comforting. That I’m not a freak or weirdo for battling these feelings as a mom. I needed to know I wasn’t alone.

3. Moms Aren’t My Enemies

If I am being honest, there used to be a part of me that hated moms. Not only because I was battling infertility and was just flat-out jealous of them but because it seemed like they couldn’t talk about anything BUT their kids…which I found annoying.

Moms became an enemy and I preferred to hang with singles or other married-without-kiddos gals.

Since becoming a mom myself I’ve learned at how kind and giving other moms are. I’ve had other moms reach out to me and be some of the most supportive women I now know. And yes, talking about the kids is tempting, but moms can still talk about MUCH more than the kids if given the freedom!

And I met dozens of those women at Edel.

Moms who were my allies and friends…anything BUT my enemy. It was refreshing to meet Catholic moms from all over the country with all types of personalities and interests yet going through the same things vocationally.

It was truly refreshing. I couldn’t hate it at all. ūüôā

Catholicism, Intentional Living

How to Have a Great Lent

February 23, 2015

Admittedly, this post probably would have served you better if it came to you last week. But hey, better late than never!¬†And for everyone out there who got their butts kicked by the first (half) week of Lent, this one’s coming just in time.

This is the busiest time of the year for me creating web content for FOCUS.¬†We go a little Lent crazy, which is why we call our Lent content Lentsanity. Also, as Shaun T’s Insanity aims to get your body into shape, we try to get our souls into shape during Lent, and we’re here to help you do that.

1. Pick a Fast or Pius Practice

I know, Lent already started. If you want to start a Lenten practice now, go right ahead. Don’t worry about not having done it the first few days of Lent. Pick something and do it.

What to Do for Lent: 7 Reasonable Ideas
What Should I Do for Lent: Pope Francis’ 10¬†Tips¬†

2. Do What the Church Asks of You

There are a few things the Church asks us to do for Lent, mainly skip the meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. What exactly does the Church mean by fasting? And how do we remember to skip the meat? We gotcha covered:

Illustrated Guide to Lenten Fasting & Abstinence
FREE Lentsanity App with Reminders to Skip the Meat

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b1i_e_VL3o

3. Pray

Praying is the most important thing you can do during Lent. Spend some time with God by praying with Scripture. If you don’t know how, I made this handy guide. You can even print it out as a little booklet!

Do the Lectio 3 Step: An Illustrated Guide to Praying with Scripture

 

We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up for Lentsanity, so be sure to keep an eye out on focus.org/lentsanity to see it all as it’s published. Better yet, subscribe to Lentsanity email updates, and the best of our resources will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Have a great Lent! (And don’t get busted by the Meat Police!)

www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRv8sNa7ZzClS4XovoZPrqbEiT4omv6Er

Catholicism, Mission, The New Evangelization

In Defense of #Ashtag

February 18, 2015

There’s some hand wringing going on about #ashtag. Some see¬†the #ashtag trend taking¬†a sacred ritual designed to remind us of our mortality and twisting it into a self-centered exercise that profanes the sacred and misses the point of the day entirely. I disagree.

And as one of the people who helped bring #ashtag into popular usage (I wrote a very popular blog post encouraging its use for the FOCUS blog last year), I believe I have a unique perspective on this whole thing, and a small scrap of authority in regards to it all.

I’ll share my thoughts on some of the main arguments against #ashtag, then share some thoughts on the positives of #ashtag.

Argument Against 1: It’s Self-Centered, and Lent’s All About Dying to Self

I chalk this one up to the unfortunate connotation of the word “selfie.” Taking a selfie,¬†no matter what the day, does not necessarily mean the one taking it is all into themselves. It means they’re taking a picture of themselves, probably to save a memory of what they’re up to. And with the convenience of smartphones, it’s easy (and fun) to take a picture of yourself.¬†Could the person be taking a picture of themselves because they’re all wrapped up in themselves? Certainly, but it would be a mistake to assume such a motive is behind every selfie.

Argument Against 2:¬†It’s Makes Our Fasting and Prayers Public, and Jesus Says To Not Do That

So do ashes on our foreheads. Or a crucifix on our necklace. Or saying grace before eating at a restaurant. Or priests and sisters wearing their habits or clerics in public. Or having a Mary statue in your yard.¬†I would never skip going to the gas station on Ash Wednesday because I didn’t want people to see my ashes and end up “showing off.” In a similar way that I live part of my life at the gas station, I live part of my life online, and showing my ashes there is just sharing a part of me.

 

Why #Ashtag is a Good Thing

As we increasingly live online, our faith comes with us.¬†Social media, at its best, connects people, forms communities, and encourages us. The beauty of twitter isn’t seeing how many retweets your timely joke gets, but is instead in the creative expression of ideas in such a short format. Facebook serves the user best not when used to quantify social standing and self-worth by counting how many likes a post received, but instead when it connects the user to other people, real people, who offer encouragement and companionship in life.

#Ashtag doesn’t say, “Look at ME! See how holy I AM?! Don’t you love ME?” It says, “I’m Catholic. I’m a sinner. None of us can do this alone. We need Jesus and each other.” It’s no different from filling your car at the gas¬†station or saying hello to a neighbor at the mailbox on Ash Wednesday.

I think the #ashtag conversation is a referendum either on how people view Lent or how people view social media, maybe both.

Yes, Lent is a season of penance and fasting, but throughout the season we are encouraged by the Church to approach our sacrifice and penance with joy. We can rejoice, and even boast our weakness, because it is our strength in God.

Our use of social media reflects how we live our lives. Both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI have called the Church to embrace social networks and the opportunity they provide to bring connection to the human family. Posting an #ashtag picture is an exercise in joining with others in the family on the journey to Easter.

If anyone out there wants to post their #ashtag picture because they want to get a lot of likes or they hope it will increase their status in the eyes of certain people, then you might want to examine your motives. If you want to join in the Lenten conversation online and come together with your brothers and sisters, then post away. And if anyone out there doesn’t want to post an #ashtag picture, then by all means, go ahead and don’t post one. I’m not trying to convince anyone to post one, just adding to the conversation by saying, “I think it’s totally fine to post these pics.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Adoption, Catholicism

God Spoke to Me and I Didn’t Believe Him

January 3, 2015

This story has been more or less kept to myself this past year.

It’s quite humbling, as it reveals my lack of faith or hope in God’s providence and His faithfulness despite my shortcomings. All the more reason I need to share it.

But there is a back story…that started 10 years ago. So come with me down memory lane and we will then find ourselves back at the story I need to tell you today….

January 2005 – FOCUS National Conference in Denver, CO

As a Sophomore in college, I accidentally ended up on the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) National Conference last minute due to someone else cancelling the night before. I knew two people going and was super nervous I would have a horrible weekend.

I was away from the Catholic faith at the time, since I was exploring with non-denominational ministries in the local area.

Until this conference.

There is way too much detail involved to share why this conference was a game changer in my faith but I am going to highlight the pivotal moment…

The Eucharist.

Don’t ask me how but I never¬†really knew the Catholic Church taught that communion was ACTUALLY¬†Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity contained within bread.

Whoa.

I remember learning that’s what the church taught…then I wandered into this thing called Eucharistic Adoration. I prayed a simple prayer:

Jesus, if it’s REALLY you, I need to know. Like now. Because if it IS¬†you, I have to be Catholic. If it’s¬†NOT¬†you, I need to stand up and yell “HERETICS!” and try to get as many people to leave the room with me as I can.

Ten years later I still can’t tell you what exactly happened in the moments that followed that prayer.

If I had spiritual goggles on, I predict I would have seen Jesus punching me in the stomach since I ended up on the floor. I was unable to handle the rush of His presence that hit me all at once. I was crying uncontrollably (which is so NOT like me, especially in public) and I recall hearing a non-audible voice say “It’s really me.” Then I was filled with the most peace I’ve ever known in my entire life and I knew I¬†had to be Catholic.

How could I go anywhere but where Jesus was in the Eucharist? I couldn’t

That ¬†moment¬†was etched into my soul and I can’t erase it…even a decade later. I came back to the Catholic faith after that conference and haven’t left since.

In fact, FOCUS has had a conference every January since that first one…and I attended every single year. Call me crazy but every time I went to Eucharistic adoration at conference, God would speak to me in a very clear and specific way¬†to¬†provide insight, peace, or whatever I really needed to hear at the time. Sure, I felt like God spoke other times during the year but whatever was said in that January adoration at the FOCUS conferences was special.

It was like an anniversary gift.

January 2014 – FOCUS Student Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX

Another January (nine years later).

Another FOCUS conference.

Another Eucharistic adoration.

I was riding the struggle bus big time.

Infertility was hitting me hard. It was about that time that I did the Infertility Blog Series over at Hallelujah is My Song (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four). While it felt great to finally go public with our infertility battles, it was tremendously difficult. We were becoming the poster couple for infertility.

Ugh.

Needless to say, my mood was pretty somber and depressed at the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit.

That’s when weird things began to happen.

The day that Eucharistic adoration was going to occur, a couple asked us to have coffee with them. It was mostly work related but then they proceeded to tell us their entire adoption story involving their two kiddos. It was a breath of fresh air and left me with a new bounce in my step.

That afternoon Jonathan and I were really busy so we agreed to meet up for dinner to discuss adoption that evening.

We met for an Italian meal and while we began discussing adoption and if we wanted to go down that path, another family walked in and sat at the table across from us…with their son who came to them via the gift of adoption.

It’s not like there are very many adoptive families in FOCUS. This was all happening because God was up to something and I knew it.

Our dinner conversation went well and we agreed that in 2014 we would get the ball rolling on our adoption journey. We went our separate ways and planned to meet up later that evening.

A few hours later I arrived at adoration. I found my seat and was ready for whatever special grace God wanted to give me this year on our anniversary. Maybe it would be a moment of peace about infertility. Or a sense of conviction that He hadn’t forgotten about us.

Something.

Anything.

I was ready.

And then it came. I inaudibly heard clear as day, “By this time in adoration next year, you will be a mother.”

WHAT?!?!?!

My heart began to pound and I was overcome with emotion. I waffled back and forth Рwas this just my own mind making it up or was God actually speaking to me?!?!

I cried, hoping against hope that it wasn’t simply my desperation fueling what I heard in prayer.

On one hand, I knew it was God speaking to me. On the other, I was nervous to admit it to anyone…even to Jonathan or any spiritual director. I didn’t want to look like a fool¬†just in case God’s promise to me was a puff of smoke made up by an emotional infertile woman.

I didn’t tell a single soul because I was afraid.

But then everything started happening this summer.

It looked like a stronger and stronger possibility that we would adopt in 2014. Could God’s promise to me have ACTUALLY been real? I decided to tell Jonathan and he could hardly believe I’d kept that secret to myself. And that I had spent the better part of a year stewing over if it was just me or if God actually made a promise to me instead of simply trusting.

January 2015 – FOCUS SEEK Conference in Nashville, TN

Tonight, Saturday January 3, 2015 I plan to hunker down in adoration. It will be my 10 year anniversary with Jesus and I will have Josephine Rose Teixeira in tow.

His promise was real. It wasn’t simply a mind game I played on myself.

I am a mother and I am forever grateful to God for this gift and opportunity.

I will likely spend some time crying before the Lord for the ways I doubted his promise this year. I had such little faith that He could change our situation…but He did it and in a mind blowing way.

Not only did it happen super fast but we fundraised nearly the entire cost.¬† We’ve had hundreds of cheer leaders along for the ride.¬†I am still processing what the heck happened in the past five months.

It’s literally been a whirlwind of a story only God himself could write. We are blessed to be along for the ride and can’t wait to see how our family grows as the years go by.

Thanks for tagging along as I share this story and GIVE ALL GLORY TO GOD!!!

Catholicism, Uncategorized

Little Happies: A Friend Entered Religious Life

August 11, 2014

Welcome to the twenty-third edition of the Little Happies link-up here at True Good and Beautiful.

Here is what’s been going on in our world.

{one}

pio.jpg

Brother Pio Mary!!!!!

Our dear friend Jeff entered the Dominicans a couple weeks back and just this past week he received his habit and religious name.

We are so happy for him! ūüôā

{two}

www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

This song came out over a year ago and I’ve loved it since the first time I heard it.

Why it’s on the Little Happies list this week is because we sang it at Mass on Sunday. Between the Gospel reading (about Peter walking on water/doubting/Jesus saving him) and this song…my soul was resting in total peace. Thankfully that is more common these days. I won’t say my darkest days of infertility are gone forever but I think a majority of them are behind me and for that I am so grateful.

God’s is truly changing me through this. I cried during these lyrics of the song, since I know that through infertility God is answering this prayer of my heart:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

{three}

photo 1

I was afraid this would end up going down in history as a Pintrest-fail…and my first attempt was.

But then I found a great tutorial on YouTube on how to make burlap bows and everything was made right in the world.

{four}

photo 2

Can’t be a Little Happies without Wrigley making an appearance!

I really don’t know how he gets into half the sleeping positions he does.

He’s such a good pup and we just started Puppy Kindergarten Class for some basic training and socialization. ¬†Seeing fifteen puppies all meeting one another in a class setting had to be the most adorable thing I saw all week.

{five}

10574371_633014110146948_4623607136407396692_n

We saw Guardians of The Galaxy and it was awesome.

Best character ever?

Groot.

We saw it at an AMC in town that only has lounging recliner seats (awesome!) and brought along sushi and candy to complete our “dinner and a movie” night out.

I totally recommend the movie. And sushi. And candy. ūüôā

That’s a wrap for this week. Catch ya later!

Catholicism, Infertility

God Is Always Good

June 20, 2014

Ever read the book of Job?

To sum it up,¬†life is going really well for Job. He’s got lots of kids, land, sheep, camels, etc. For the time in which he lived, Job was more or less Bill Gates. You couldn’t miss the abundance of God’s blessing on his life.¬†Job was also was a God-fearing man, so he knew where his blessings came from.

If you fast forward a bit to a conversation between God and Satan about our man Job, things begin to change. (Not sure I ever want to be the topic of such conversations…)

In summary, God brings up Job proudly and points out what a faithful follower he is. Then Satan points out that it’s not like Job has had any reason to NOT be faithful, everything going so well for the guy and all. Satan even bets that if God stopped this abundance of blessing, Job would likely be singing a different tune altogether…and not one of praise but of curse.

God then permits Satan to test Job’s faithfulness by allowing him to curse all Job has except his very life.

And it begins. Job’s life falls apart piece by piece. All his hard work, dreams, and health begin to be shred a part.¬†Job’s support starts to dwindle away. His friends and even his own wife began to question WHY Job was staying faithful through such hardship. Despite it all, Job does NOT curse God and deny his faith.

I want to highlight my absolute favorite verse in the book of Job. It’s straight from his lips right when everything is starting to fall a part:

Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped.¬†And he said, ‚ÄúNaked I came from my mother‚Äôs womb, and naked shall I return; the¬†Lord¬†gave, and the¬†Lord¬†has taken away; blessed be the name of the¬†Lord.‚ÄĚ(emphasis added) Job 1:20-21

that’s something we don’t hear much of in our comfort, perfection, and blessing obsessed society. Just log in to Facebook once and you will see that 99.9% of the posts (if relating to God in any way, shape, or form) will be praises of God in times of blessing. Now, there is nothing wrong with praising God when times are going swimmingly. We should!!! But, it’s all too easy to ONLY praise God when things are going well. It’s really hard¬†to privately or publicly praise the Lord in times of suffering and hardship.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, of course, in relation to our battle with infertility. I cannot claim that the pain in my life looks exactly like Job’s because that would be a gross overstatement and dramatization. However, ¬†infertility is the worst suffering I’ve ever experienced and I find myself relating to many of Job’s questions to God.

With infertility, I feel like so much potential for good has been stripped from our life. That many¬†hopes and dreams we had have been shattered, since much of them involved children. Unlike Job I can’t say “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…” because the Lord has simply not given any children¬†to be taken away. It’s tempting to feel like the Lord has simply withheld. Or to think that “better” people receive the blessing of children from the Lord but not us because we must be undeserving or bad.

Another line from Job sticks out and brings me closer to the entire point of this post:

“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”¬†In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:10

Job, who had everything and then watched it all be taken away, simply states that we should receive whatever the Lord gives to us…and to praise him despite the circumstances we face.¬†That’s incredilby hard to do, especially in our culture today that is hyper-focused on positive, instagramable, pintrest-worthy lives.

The way in which it’s become so EASY to publicly praise God when things are going well sets us all up for something dangerous.

A subtle lie.

The lie that God is only good in times of blessing. That God is only worth praising when things are hunky-dory.

And that is so untrue. God is always good. No matter what our circumstances look like. And our praise? It’s even more powerful when we’re NOT in a season of blessing. When we’re in a season of *$#@ and we can still shout “GOD IS GOOD!” That’s when that statement will hold the most power because it’s a tested statement.

Who¬†wouldn’t shout God’s praises when everything is sailing along nicely and everything is going according to their plans? It’s those times of hardship when Christians need to step up and proclaim God’s faithfullness and goodness. That will speak volumes. I actually think Christians, specifically Catholics with a deep history of redemptive theology ,¬†need to show people how to suffer with hope. They need to know how to allow God’s goodness and mercy to show up in rough and painful times. They need to be taught how to cling to God when it feels like God has turned on them.

I¬†want¬†to praise God in the midst of infertility but it’s hard because of all the anger, fear, and rage I feel inside… He knows my desires even if it’s not always shown in my actions but I have a deep need to proclaim his goodness – for my own sake and for the sake of anyone else reading this who will inevitably run into suffering now or in their future.

I need¬†to testify that GOD IS STILL GOOD even in a life filled with struggle, pain, and un-fulfilled desires.¬†I’ve seen examples of others testify to this when a family endures a tragic illness with a child or an untimely death and they still choose to praise God in the storm. Those proclamations have encouraged me. They’ve given me hope and gratitude that we have a God who can redeem anything, no matter how dark and scary it may be….even if we don’t¬†see that redemption yet.

They’ve inspired me to cling to hope…and I want…I need to do the same.

I don’t want to adopt a kiddo or have a miraculous pregnancy someday (hopefully sooner than later, Lord!) and only THEN praise God. It will be easy to praise God then. You will have to strap me down to keep me from praising God wherever I go. His blessing and goodness will be palpable and clearly seen.

That’s why right here, right now, in the midst of a season of *$#@, I testify that GOD IS STILL GOOD! He is now and will be forever, no matter WHAT happens with our family. God will take care of us and YOU even if we don’t know how it will look.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.” Psalm 34:2