Feeling Underestimated?

Several years ago, a co-worker gave me one of those little inspirational Hallmark books for my birthday. The title seemed a good fit, “Laughter & Latte: Joyful Inspiration for Women”.  I never really cuddled up with it to read many of the reflections. To be honest, it quickly settled among my “bathroom books”. You can even see some of the dust still left on the cover.

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But this week I could really use some “joyful inspiration”. On Sunday, I got that Holy Spirit urging to go and pick up my little Bathroom book. I now know better than to write off or question those little promptings, so I did.

“Feeling Underestimated?” was the title of the excerpt from Laurie Beth Jones’ book, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” OK, you’ve got my attention. Here is the short story across those two pink and brown pages:

The media escort who accompanied me on the Los Angeles stop of my most recent book tour was a woman about five feet, two inches tall. A petite blond with movie star charisma, she disclosed during our conversation that after she had been mugged and later car-jacked in Los Angeles, she had become a black-belt kickboxer. Now, when she and her husband encounter rough situations, her six-foot one-inch husband whispers, “Go ahead, honey, get ‘em. I’ll hold your purse.” She says she actually enjoys the feeling of being underestimated.

Unless you are dealing with people who daily recognize and acknowledge the miracle-working power of God, chances are very good you are being underestimated, and more significantly, chances are you are underestimating yourself.

When we have access, through prayer and meditation, to all the gifts and knowledge of God, we can be relatively confident that whoever is challenging us is underestimating us. Our responsibility in difficult situations is to harness the power of God in us and the power of God everywhere.”

When I later shared it with my husband, we laughed through the part where the husband says, “I’ll hold your purse…” After all, who more than my partner, and my Confessor, knows what “kickboxing” the spicy passion of this five-foot three-inch Tomboy can unleash. God help us.

Yet it is not about believing and proving what we are capable of. Even Jesus was and still often is grossly underestimated. But, what if we embraced everything as a gift — recognizing that all we are, have, and can do is because of our Maker. After all, as His children, do we not have access to the miracle-working power of God?

This verse was shared with me this week, and I have since paid it forward; but take a moment to reflect on great power of God to work in and through you.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty STRENGTH, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

- Ephesians 1:18-20

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90 Years: Celebrating The Life of Our Matriarch

The head of our Hungarian clan, my Grandmother, Helen, is NINETY years old today!!! WOO HOO! My Aunts have said that they couldn’t let this major accomplishment slide by quietly, and so have planned a nice celebration in her honor back near my hometown in Michigan.

90 year old Grandma

As we’ve grown and married, most of her Grandchildren have moved away from Michigan. Knowing how difficult it is for all of us to make the trip, besides Grandma never wanting to cause a fuss, my Auntie approached me with a request: Could I compile and edit a video of Birthday wishes from the out-of-state family members that would do it? I accepted, under the condition that I’d get all the videos a month out to be able to work at it as time allowed — yeah right! I did get Grandma’s DVD finalized in time – never you mind if I was burning the disc on my laptop (which had conveniently crashed) in the passenger seat as I slid into UPS, 2 minutes to close with the truck leaving. That’s what they designed 2nd-Day Air for people!

There’s a good cross-section of us out-of-staters represented in the final production. One of the things that I loved while working on the editing is that each clip so classically embodies each family. The beginning always makes me laugh, as it just so Grandma. Shortly after her 89th birthday, my Hubs and I visited and shot some home movies where we interviewed her for posterity’s sake. Good thing about Grandma – you never have to guess what she’s thinking, she’ll let you know. For real. She used to tell me:

I hope you get married before I die.

And I would respond,

I’m purposely holding out so that you will live longer.

Suffice it to say she lived to see me dance at my wedding, which not even my Mom (her daughter) had been able to do. Some may say she’s a tough ol’ Bird, but she’ll tell you that God must still have some mission for her.

Here’s a snapshot into my wonderfully talented and quirky family – wishing a happy 90th Birthday to our Matriarch! For those who hold out, there’s a bonus at the end.

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Story of A Soul

Today marks the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a young French Carmelite, who has profoundly shaped my spirituality.

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Since I’ve written several posts in the past about Therese, creating this graphic was a new way to honor such a beautiful soul. Last night I opened “Story of a Soul”, her autobiography, and out of the many underlined and bookmarked pages, I was captured by this simple reminder.

Our daily life and work often is teeming with demands. It is action oriented and results-driven: “Go big or go home,” right?! The challenge is not to approach our spiritual life in the same manner. God does not ask us to prove ourselves to him, or perform great actions to gain His approval or reward. Therese simply relates to bring it back to “surrender and gratitude”. It’s speaking to my heart right now – what about yours?

There’s great freedom and refreshment in receiving that kind of Love.

Read my earlier posts on the Little Flower, which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese:

A Test of Faith

Happy Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

Loving Our Littleness

- A Heavenly Shower of Roses

- True Love

- Victim of Love

- The Power of Prayer

- On her profound autobiography, Story of a Soul.

- On another of my favorite books on her spirituality, I Believe in Love

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The Hardest Prayer for Me to Pray

Prayer is not something foreign to me, or that I struggle to formulate. There is one prayer that, if I’m being honest, has been difficult for me to embrace — The Litany of Humility.  Gosh, it’s humbling even to admit that.

Throughout my waking hours, as well as the moments where I’m drifting off to sleep, there are often little and then longer prayers interwoven into the rhythm of my day — many of which are never spoken aloud. The prayers vary: It may be the scriptures in Morning Prayer, offering up a friend that suddenly comes to mind, begging for grace needed at the time, entrusting special ongoing intentions, prayers from the heart with my husband before bed, and many types in between…

But have you heard the caution: “Be careful what you pray for”?  Unfortunately, this is the main prayer I associate with that warning. In praying this particular Litany, part of my hesitation lies in what opportunities I’m inviting beyond my normal humbling moments. Scratching beneath the surface, it’s likely because not until I pray these words do I fully realize exactly how prideful and sensitive to forms of rejection I am. If I’m being really honest, I think that this Litany throws a right hook square at my old people-pleaser tendency. WALLOP! Ouch!!

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Photo: How to Nest for Less

Click this link for the FREE printable format of The Litany of Humility.

Where did The Litany of Humility first originate? Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val wrote this prayer which he recited after every Mass he celebrated. The sweet irony is that he is said to have had “one of the fastest-moving careers in all ecclesiastical history.” In fact, he was chosen by St. Pius X to serve as Secretary of State, a position of honor and authority, serving as the right hand to the earthly head of the Catholic Church. What generosity was shown to the man who daily prayed, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.”

“Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine,” was a prayer I recited often with my household in college. It’s one thing for me to say it, it’s a whole thing to embrace the opportunities to live it.  After all, beyond our own desires, how many voices in the world bombard us with opposing messages…we want to be esteemed, preferred, praised, and noticed!

This is the model of humility Christ gave us:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
– Philippians 2:5-8
 

I understand this, but how can I overcome my fleshly aversion to this prayer and what it really calls me to embrace?

Enter this new song, I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad, that I LOVE. Another irony — it’s based on the Litany of Humility. Yet there’s an echoing of Psalm 23 as the refrain, which is a Psalm of comfort:  “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

What a beautiful approach to the Litany, challenging my perspective: Why narrow your view coming from a place of pain, from suffering various forms of rejection? What if you approached it instead from a stance of fulfillment in the Lord, of wanting for nothing?

BOOM – the uppercut that rounds out the hit to the ol’ people-pleaser!  If nothing more, the best place to start is the final line:

“Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” 

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We Remember

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Photo Credit: Mike Martinez

We all remember exactly where we were on this day, 9/11, twelve years ago and what we were doing. How surreal it was — that those were not images in a movie, or in a foreign war-torn nation — but right on our soil… The emotions…especially fear, and the helplessness we felt as we watched but could not even reach our loved one to be assured of their safety.

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.  ~Author unknown

Just taking a moment to pause, rounding out the Hour of Mercy now, reflect, and to be in solidarity with my fellow Americans. To remember. To not take anything for granted.

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This One Goes Out To the One I Love

It’s not just an REM song, it’s also the expression of birthday lovin’ for my Hubby!

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I always ask him what he wants to do for his Birthday, and he just loves to spend quality time together. So we’ve both taken the day off tomorrow and surprises and new adventures await.

I’ll add some pics as we progress throughout the birthday ballyhoo, so check back later.

UPDATE:

Quality time was on the agenda for Mike’s birthday, especially considering how hard we’ve both working. A lot of people post birthday party pics from their kids; well, here’s a peak into the birthday festivities:

SURPRISE #1: Mike’s favorite dessert = Apple Pie. I went the extra a la mode step, with Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Ohhhhh wow. Unfortunately it wasn’t a complete surprise, as I had him stay in the back office while I made it, but come on folks, how can you not smell homemade Apple Pie bubbling up in the oven just the room over!

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SURPRISE #2: Kayaking White Rock Lake! Kayaking was one of my favorite excursions when Mike and I were dating. We haven’t really been since, so it was overdue. We’d never kayaked White Rock Lake, and with it right in our backyard, it worked perfectly with the other plans for the day. The amazing part was that it had rained in the morning before we got up, and there was unseasonably cool weather Friday morning. It was overcast but not raining, cool but not cold at an unreal 72 degrees for Dallas in August!

IMG_8594There even was a rainbow!!!

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Surprise #3: Picnic at Klyde Warren Park, Downtown Dallas. Since before this urban green space opened in the heart of downtown, Mike & I have wanted to go there. So glad we finally did. What a cool space — lined with food trucks, a Children’s park with sweet water features, reading and games areas, people tossing footballs in the open areas, others walking dogs, a Performance pavilion, trails, etc — definitely add it to your list if you haven’t gone already.

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The kids were having a blast playing in the water!
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Surprise #4: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, new to Richardson! How perfect that the night before his birthday, Mike suggests that we try out the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie (his favorite past time for certain). Little did he know that I had already purchase a TravelZoo voucher for dinner and movie there :)  It was a beautiful facility, the burgers were great, the Popcorn had real butter, and the picture & sound quality excellent. They did a great job working around the fact that their computer servers were down, and manually had to write out our tickets, take our vouchers, as well as write out our meal tickets. We saw “Jobs” – the story of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, as played by Ashton Kutcher – who I thought was very convincing in the role.

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Surprise #5: Has yet to arrive yet, due to an eBay delay…but it is the thing that Mike was most excited about. We’ve invested in the Vitamix 750 Professional Series, as part of our plan to get more healthy. This bad boy has presets, a complete cookbook & DVD, a tamper to push everything down into the blade, a 7-year warranty, and actually liquifies whole fruits and vegetables – so not extracting the juice and leaving the fibrous good stuff as refuse.

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Our new Vitamix 750 will be arriving in the next couple of days, and we’re excited to have a plethora of ways to use it: from smoothies, to soups (it even cooks in the blender), to grains, purees, etc. There are 5 pre-programmed settings “to ensure simple cleaning, walk-away convenience, and consistent results for smoothie, frozen dessert, soup, and purée recipes.” We can’t wait to test our new machine out and share with you some of the great ways we’re utilizing it. So stay tuned for that!

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Blog Birthday Bash

happy4BdayBlogTime to blow out the candles, cause it’s my Blog Birthday at closed doors open windows! Four years ago I really began to dig into my journey of self discovery with some major doors closing in my life, leading to some incredible open window opportunities. I’ve shared things across the gambit here: joys, sorrows, updates, my family life, recipes, crafts, home decorating, business tips… I’ve shared some of my life’s lows — from my Mom’s battle with Cancer and her passing — and highs — my Engagement and starting out as an Entrepreneur. Wow, how life has changed in these past 4 years, and its gratifying to look back and see some life-defining moments captured here!

It is my hope that in a world where we are bombarded with information, that at some point these ponderings by yours truly have brought even a bit of delight or a moment of reflection. Thank for joining me in my little space on the interwebs, for celebrating my Blog’s Birthday, and for taking time to share some of yourself with me here. Writing is one of my first loves, and using it to connect with other people one of my greatest joys, so sincerely…I’m grateful. I am blessed.

Happy Birthday closeddoorsopenwindows.wordpress.com!

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Daring to Begin

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It’s Monday…again. Woke up and tried to start it off right making Nutriblasts (today = Spinach, Blueberries, Banana, Strawberries, and Maca Powder) for me & my Guy, then putting together one of my favorite quotes to share.  As someone who works hard to overcome my tendency to procrastinate, this is one of my go to quotes for motivation.

It’s time to re-focus myself in prayer, and then really get after it.  Let’s make it a great week!

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Fifty Years of Marriage

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“In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II on Marriage & Family

Today my in-laws celebrate FIFTY years, as in 5-0 or 5 decades, of marriage, life, love, and family — an incredible milestone, and certainly an inspiration!!! Wanting to pray for them and honor them in a special way this day, I found this beautiful “Blessing for a Golden Wedding Anniversary: Traditional Rite” (for full version, follow link).

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Beloved of Christ: “Wedlock is a holy thing and it should be dealt with in a holy manner.” This is the teaching of the Council of Trent. Evidently you subscribe wholeheartedly to this solemn pronouncement, because you begin the festivities of your golden wedding anniversary in the house of God. You are come to render thanksgiving to Him for His benevolent favors of the past fifty years, and to entreat His benediction upon you for the years that remain. You return as devout pilgrims today to the altar of God, where in your youth you were made joyful and glad with the marriage sacrament. You were married in Christ, and the Lord has continued these many years to be your portion in happiness and your chalice in sorrow, just as you live in hope that He will bequeath an everlasting inheritance when the journey comes to an end.

On the day of your wedding, so long past, grace was laid up in your souls through the sacrament which you administered to each other. Today you stand before the world as a striking testimony of what God’s grace, conferred in matrimony, can effect in the husband and wife who will work along with the divine treasure that is in them. Our world has great need of the living sermon which your example of fidelity and loyalty dins into its ears. All who validly receive the sacrament of matrimony are meant to be sanctified and strengthened for the duties and for the dignity of their state, but sad to say not all use the powers of grace laid up in the soul by this sacrament. Because so many married folks have gone astray from the living God and turned to the false gods of their own inordinate whims and desires, we are confronted on all sides by the spectacle of overwhelming unhappiness and frustration that plagues our present society. Hatred between spouses, adultery, divorce, race suicide, unbridled selfishness, broken homes, forsaken children — these are the accursed fruits resulting when the grace of matrimony lies unused and its duties neglected. But now that we have mentioned these evils in protest and warning for the ears that can benefit from the Church’s solemn admonition, let us turn quickly from these unpleasant considerations, so offensive to the devout people of God, and instead take inspiration and courage from the lessons afforded by this happy occasion.

We are inclined to believe that you have lived the years of wedlock in imitation of the chaste nuptials of Christ with His Church, that your love for each other has resembled Christ’s love for His spotless Bride, and that as Christ is the Savior of the Church, so you have been to each other a savior, helping each other to grow in holiness and in true love for God and neighbor. Thus it has come about that now there is found in your marriage peace, dignity, happiness, and security. Of course, it is no secret that your way has not been easy at all times. You have had to endure suffering together. You have often been nailed to the cross of sacrifice. There have been temptations to overcome. You have been put to the test of heroic generosity and unselfishness, so that you might patiently bear each other’s weaknesses and imperfections. But because you have been subject to God, you have subdued the rebellion of the flesh. With God’s help you have been enabled to accomplish what of yourselves you would not have been able.

In the name of Christ, of the Church and all her children who are present, as well as in my priestly office, I extend heartiest congratulations to you and all good wishes for your future years together. Shortly we shall offer the Holy Sacrifice in praise and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for the great work He has wrought in you. In the course of the Mass let us also beseech the Most High to be ever at your side in His full power and glory, assisting you to continue and to persevere unto the end, so that the wedlock kept holy on earth may adorn you for the hour in which the heavenly messenger comes to conduct you to the divine nuptials of the Lamb of God.

Happy Golden Anniversary, Mom & Dad! We wish you many more years of love, joy, health, and blessings.

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Raising a Saint

Although they are unmentioned in the Bible, the lives of Sts. Joachim and Ann have been gleaned from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi, or Gospel of James, written about the year 170. As the story goes, Joachim was a prominent, respected man; yet he and his wife, Ann, for many years had no children. At that time, that was viewed as a punishment from God, so they prayed and asked for a child.  This is why she is the patroness of childless couples, pregnancy, and many more (see below).

God answered their prayer, and an angel appeared to tell the older couple that they would conceive. Anne promised that their child would be dedicated to God, and Mary was born.

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What was it like to raise not only a Saint, but the Mother of God? I wish there were writings on that. Still, I picture it something like this photo: With Ann teaching Mary her “Catechism”, and how to tend to a household, and little Mary faithfully and sweetly learning and growing. We do know that Joachim and Ann were people of faith, and raised Mary in such a way to be worthy of her calling. They did not waste any time either, as Mary was only about 12 or 13 when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

On the vigil of Sts. Joachim & Ann’s feast last night, the Hispanic and English groups joined together to celebrate our Patroness. About twice a year, our thriving Parish in Texas, St. Ann, combines the English and Spanish choirs to sing for bilingual liturgies. It’s very lively and moving – even us musicians were moved to tears during parts of the Mass.  Since Ann & Joachim were Jesus’ Grandparent, we honored the Grandparents of our community — they joined the procession, carrying white flowers and placing them in vases on the altar.  With 8 priests and deacons celebrating the Mass, and so many choir members to overfill the risers, it was a beautiful liturgy.

Here’s more about Anne & Joachim, from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens:

PATRON
Anne: against poverty; barren; broommakers; cabinetmakers; carpenters; childless couples; equestrians; grandmothers; grandparents; homemakers; housewives; lace makers; lace workers; lost articles; miners; mothers; old-clothes dealers; pregnancy; pregnant women; horse riders; seamstresses; stablemen; sterility; turners; women in labour; Brittany; Canada; France; Quebec; archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan; diocese of Norwich, Connecticut; Santa Ana Indian Pueblo; Taos, New Mexico.

Joachim: fathers, grandfathers, grandparents.

SYMBOLS
Anne: Book, symbol of her careful instruction of Mary; flowering rod; crown; nest of young birds; door; Golden Gate of Jerusalem; book; infant Virgin in crib; Shield has silver border masoned in black, with silver lily on a blue field referring to the girlhood of the Virgin.
Often Portrayed As: Woman holding Mary or Jesus in her arms or lap; Woman at her betrothal to Joachim; Mother teaching Mary to read the Bible; Woman greeting Saint Joachim at Golden Gate; Woman with a book in her hand.

Joachim: Basket containing doves; model of Golden Gate of Jerusalem.
Often Portrayed As: Man bringing a lamb to the altar and being turned away by the priest; greeting and/or kissing Saint Anne at the Golden Gate; elderly man carrying a basket of doves and a staff; elderly man with the child Mary.

Sources: catholicculture.org; catholic.org

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