It IS Better to Give Than Receive

You still need Christmas cards, right? Maybe some artwork on your walls to spruce your place up for the holidays. Me too.

I’ve been trying my hand back at watercolors again. As I prayed through my painting, some Christmas designs took shape. So, I decided that for today, #GivingTueday, I’d give the proceeds to charity. Giving Tuesday is that great way to recover from all that Black Friday + Cyber Monday madness, and reset into a spirit of giving for the season.

Here are the two cool ways that I’ll GIVE to YOU when you donate on #GivingTuesday:

1) 1-day Original Watercolor Art Auction here – only November 28th, Giving Tuesday: http://bit.ly/2AcTjF8

2) Watercolor Christmas card prints – purchase here (will be available until December 18th): http://etsy.me/2na6ykF

watercolor christmas card

Or maybe you just want to make a tax-deductible gift, click the PayPal button here: http://bit.ly/2nfi66f

All proceeds benefit my nonprofit iAmplify, serving those who serve the Church, so it’s win-win. I appreciate your generosity! Thank you and God bless your Advent season!

 

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Best 2017 Movies & Thanksgiving Streaming List

Seems like the perfect timing for a light-hearted post related to two things that we love to celebrate — holidays and movies.

We ended October and ushered in November with a week of filming imbibing, courtesy of the Austin Film Festival. Even better, we enjoyed some of the flicks with friends! A writers’ festival, the AFF always serves as excellent motivation and inspiration – especially listening to the writers & directors panels.

The Festival also throws us into the path of the best random opportunities in Austin. My 2017 favorite randomness was trying to convince David Arquette to test drive a 2018 Lincoln Navigator that we sat in the 3rd-row backseat while he was in the driver’s chair. Another highlight was watching a tribute to “In Living Color”, which broke ground during my coming of age in the 90’s, with the up close and personal Q&A with Keenan Ivory Wayans at the Hideout Theater.

Austin Film Festival 2017

First I’ll list some of my film festival favorites – as these are either in or coming to Theaters, and are well worth your time. To finish, I’ll list our Thanksgiving Streaming Playlist — which is very open to your recommendations, so post them in the com box please and thanks.

What were the best 2017 Austin Film Fest movies?

Here’s my take on that. Sadly, there were so many films that we still wanted to see – but out of the dozen or so that we did catch – here are the standouts from AFF 2017

Lady Bird, Directed by Greta Gerwig. Particular hats off to Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, who did a tremendous job as the mother/daughter duo which was the backbone (and often tension) of the film.

Beauty and Ruin, Documentary by Marc de Guerre. My family is from Detroit, and I grew up in the Burbs there – so this film on the bankruptcy juxtaposed by the rich DIA art collection owned by the city, hit close to home. To sum it up in one word, painful.

Please Stand By, Directed by Ben Lewin. Did not realize how much I would love Dakota Fanning as an autistic, Sci-fi writer. Truly one of my favorite films not just of the AFF, but of 2017.

Roman J. Israel, Esq, Directed by Dan Gilroy. A different name for a film, with a very different character for Denzel Washington. As an idealist who has also gone through recent turbulent changes, I really loved his character. The premise of this story was unique, which in and of itself is an accomplishment, and watching it resolve was an engaging ride.

Endings: The Good, The Bad, and the Insanely Great, Directed by Michael Arndt. This was a work-in-progress screening of a “how-to” film, penned and produced by the writer of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3. Love how he used great films to explore concrete ways to achieve a great ending of a film. If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, definitely worth your time.

I, Tonya, Directed by Craig Gillespie. A dark comedy based on the crazy true-events of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, that surprised me how little I knew and because of, not despite, the absurdity — how thoroughly I enjoyed it.

2017 Thanksgiving Week Steaming Movie List:

Disclaimer: We’re using the title “Thanksgiving” movie list loosely here, as these are NOT all holiday-related films, although a couple films are. The Hubs and I have a diverse movie palate – as you will see – so the list was composed based on several factors: Genres, decades, actors, sentiment, or simply something we’ve been wanting to see for the first time or again. We started yesterday with #7, and we were wowed by the Dallas filmmaker’s treatment of grief and existence.

  1. The Glass Castle: 2017 biography/drama
  2. Elf: Holiday, 2003
  3. Planes, Trains & Automobiles: 80’s comedy/Thanksgiving classic
  4. Daddy’s Home: (Wahlburg/Ferrell) 2015 family comedy with the sequel in Theaters now
  5. Uncle Buck: 80’s comedy, a family fav
  6. Citizen Kane: Classic
  7. A Ghost Story: (2017) Drama
  8. Family Stone: 2005 RomCom/holiday. This was recommended by the sweet barkeep at the Hotel Indigo that we enjoyed sipping on Old Fashioneds at this past weekend – thank you!
  9. Happy Go Lucky: 2008 Artsy Comedy/Drama/Romance
  10. The Rover: Artsy – Action/Crime/Drama
  11. The Proposition: Western

What do you think? Axe any? Add any? Give us your movie list recommendations, friends!

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5 Battle Scars Won Through 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

“I can’t believe it’s been 5 years!” a friend messaged me this morning.

Five years – already?! While it’s hard to believe, at the same time, it feels like it has been dog years since Mike and I formed illuvint llc, our boutique digital marketing company. I continue to manage illuvint as I develop iAmplify, my nonprofit initiative to help religious organizations.

“You will feel everything directly. All the joys, all the challenges, and the failures – they will impact you. There is no longer a buffer.” That was the wisdom that a seasoned entrepreneur and friend imparted at the onset of this journey.

Still, I was not prepared for what would be required of me. If you really know me, then as much of planner as I am, you also know that my ambition was not to be an Entrepreneur and Nonprofit Founder; however, these unplanned endeavors have shaped who I’ve become and my life would look radically different today had I not given my fiat five years ago.

5 Battle Scars Won Through 5 Years of Entrepreneurship

“Negative occurrences in our lives affect us more deeply than positive ones, and can serve as ‘windows of opportunity for growth’.” That was a theme I wrote about here many moons ago.

My failures, challenges, and life lessons have imparted some battle scars along this journey. If you’re going to be the woman or “man in the arena”, be ready for battle scars.

While these scars are invisible to the naked eye, they have power – the power to transform. There’s so much I’ve learned, but the insights I’ve gained from these 5 battle scars over 5 years of Entrepreneurship are quintessential.

1) Detachment.

No one will care about this work as much as you, not even your supporters. I define Entrepreneurial detachment as separating emotionally from the need to control, particularly where it concerns outcomes.

Sometimes, ok a lot of times, you will take things too personally. Detachment is not one and done; but rather it is a necessary, continual process amidst forging your initiative in response to your passion, purpose, and gifts.

Unless you’ve lived this, it may be hard to fully grasp the attachment and temptation towards that end which Entrepreneurs feel. The work we do requires pouring ourselves out, over hours, days, months, and years. And while it is our passion, it results in a lot of sacrificing, especially time with family, friends, having downtime or vacations, etc. Our brains and our “to-do lists” may keep us restless until we work it, re-work it, then stir and repeat. Refine it, and become refined by it. Again. And again.

A healthy level of attachment is required, though. If we weren’t connected to the work – we wouldn’t care. Not caring yields a lack of motivation, which is the wasteland of entrepreneurial dreams. A healthy level is the key here.

2) Consider the source.

There’s no shortage of opinions and advice that others will share – particularly from unsolicited “advisors”. The age of technology also feeds us a steady stream of multi-media that is full of Entrepreneurial “musts.” If you want to be successful, you must do these 20 things well (derived from this exclusive 14-week program for just $1,599.99 today, by the way).

First, always consider the source. Listen to the feedback of others, and later reflect on it. When you reflect on it, also reflect on the person who provided the feedback. Who are they? What is their experience and expertise in this particular realm? What motivation might they have for providing this feedback? What may God be trying to teach me through this encounter?

“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man.” Mt 15:18.

Listen to what comes forth from their heart and ponder what is intended for you. Do you need to be disciplined? To refocus? Or do you need to shake this one off? Consider the source, and seek The Source of all good as you do.

Most importantly, do not allow the nay-sayers voices to get into your head and feed self-doubt. It takes great courage to put yourself out there in this way, so remember your why, and hold fast.

3) The state of imperfection

“Hi, I’m Lisa, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.”

I’ve learned the hard way time and again that perfection is not something achievable this side of heaven. But excellence, on the other hand, that is something worth pursuing. My mind has confused seeking excellence as the need for perfection, but that’s a trap. Oh, and people pleasing, that’s a dead end.

Friend, avoid the snare of perfectionism – it’s not self-fulfilling, it’s self-defeating – and leaves one always feeling less than while chasing unicorns. Perfectionism is not something I chose, but something I learned, falsely ascribing my self-worth to the desire to be perfect. My wounds longed to be filled with my achievements, or to let “things” define me, instead of finding worth in who I was.

As an Entrepreneur, what I can do for people through my business may gain accolades and recognition. Conversely, what I fail to do for people may afford objections and complaints. And it can swing from one experience to the other within the time it takes to receive a text, email, or phone call.

If you can receive both in the same spirit of humility, then I believe that’s the mark of excellence in progress. And yes, it’s progress, not perfection as they say.

4) Have a plan. Then adjust to what really happens.

Business plans, marketing strategies, mind-mapping, strategic alliances, big data – it’s all good and important. There’s value also in gut-reactions, instincts, intuition, and failure. In fact, “fail fast” is one of my favorite lessons from “Creativity Inc”. And then there’s prayer, which is more than part of my daily routine or a task to check off the list, it’s what feeds my soul and directs my path.

Creating a plan is what leaders do, but good leaders either know or learn how to roll with the other factors that crop up beyond the plan. Leaders who thrive on being agile while executing a plan are particularly fascinating, as they see challenges as opportunities.

Don’t be surprised when things don’t go according to plan. And consider that it even might be better that way.

5) Wait, and be patient in the not yet.

Taking risks and being action-oriented are often among the most celebrated qualities of Entrepreneurs. But what about the patience, and retooling, and waiting, and working, and realigning, and rebooting? What about timing? And then trying, failing, trying again, and again and again. Or crafting and honing a concept, service, or product over months and years?

There is the vision. And then there is today. What we are doing now is (or should be) in order to achieve some aspect of that vision – which has not yet been fully realized. But it is the vision that keeps us reaching, working, hustling, focusing, failing, and journeying.

Entrepreneurs generally seem to be “movers and shakers”, so patience may sometimes be counted among our lesser virtues. When we take that step out and respond to a higher calling, we may feel on some level – “ok, it’s all going to come together now.” And sometimes it does. But more often, the journey is more along the lines of Thomas Edison and his invention of the light bulb.

When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.

There’s been a lot of steps made in the past five years – sometimes backward, sideways, and even hairpin turns. There have been extreme highs and lows on this journey — the demands and the gains, the victories and the setbacks, the supporters and the nay-sayers. I’ve felt it all, without a buffer – which would’ve been a real comfort sometimes. But I’ve learned, and grown, and hopefully helped a few people along the way.

God only knows all that the next five years will bring. But I do know that I’ll have a few more insights gained from the next round of battle scars; “so that [my] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

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Still Learning Perfect Joy from St Francis

St Francis of AssisiOne of my spiritual guides, St. Francis, continues to school me in this important life lesson: Perfect joy. As such, I’m resurrecting, polishing, and expanding a vintage post (2012) from my days at CCC of America.

I am more than just a bit acquainted with St. Francis. I attended a Franciscan school, have TOR (Franciscans, Third Order Regular) friends, and have even visited Assisi. In the event you are not acquainted with him, St. Francis of Assisi was the son of a prosperous merchant with dreams of Knighthood; yet called by God to rebuild the Church.  Reflecting once again on a powerful homily (at the Dominican Priory I might add), I know that I have so much more to learn from the Saint whose feast we celebrate today, October 4th.

At morning Mass a few years back, Fr. Scott was sharing a story from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis”.  Brother Leo and Francis were talking one cold December day when Brother Leo began wondering — of what does perfect joy consist?  The whole story is found here, but St. Francis began his response explaining all the things that one might consider perfect joy, but are not. Then he proceeded:

“If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy…”

I knew that day at Mass, as I still do today, that I have a long way to go in my strivings for sainthood. While Fr. Scott also mentioned that St. Francis did have an “interesting definition of perfect joy”, I know the core of St. Francis’ message. How do I know it? Because he finally tells Brother Leo what perfect joy consists of, after miles of bantering in the cold as they walked.

“Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

Of all the things that we could try to do, become, or gain in order to obtain perfect joy, here St. Francis reveals the simple yet challenging truth. Perfect joy consists of bearing all that occurs to us amidst our daily sufferings with “patience, joy, and charity…thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him.” Yes, perfect joy is as simple and as hard as accepting our Cross and sharing in Christ’s sufferings with patience, joy, and charity.

St. Francis still has much to teach me about perfect joy. But I hope you take comfort, like I do, in the beauty of our Christian faith. It is God who does the work in us. We do not have to try and climb the ladder towards perfection by our own strength or make the mountains move. HE gives us our crosses and then He tells us what to do with them (Mt 11:28-30):

* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

HE gives us his yoke if we come to him. In return, we find rest and learn from the master of meekness and humility. He will give us all the grace needed to carry our cross, and if we allow it, through our suffering we will share in His suffering, as well as share in His GLORY. [Romans 8:17: “and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.”] The Lord will do the work of transforming us to become the persons He is calling us to be through the daily carrying of our cross, and living out our vocations right where He has us.

The cross of Christ brought his suffering and revealed his glory. Transformative. There are many heavy crosses and burdens in our world – we need not look far to be confronted with suffering. And of course, we intimately know our own sufferings. So does God. We are not alone in our suffering – He is near to the brokenhearted. [Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”]

St. Francis, pray for us on our journey. When we struggle to accept the crosses God gives us, help us to experience God’s mercy and grace. May we find our rest in him, and perfect joy in his plan for our lives.

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Feeling Restless? This is How We Overcome!

Just before 2:00 am last night, I finally got out of bed. It was my second consecutive restless night. Just when I think I may kinda-sorta be able to hit cruise control for a little bit, WABOOM, curve ball. When life gets like this, I know what helps me begin to reset — STOP, write in my journal.

Amidst my restlessness, my writing becomes an outpouring from mind and heart, which turns then to prayer. A prayer that opens me up to hear the Lord again above the noise. And His words are usually powerful in these moments.

These sacred words are something that I always keep between us, in the pages of my journal. But there were a series of things that I felt, heard, and saw that have prompted me to share a few of these precious morsels here, with you. The primary one being that today begins a lovely devotion close to my heart, and hopefully yours – the Novena to the Sacred Heart. If you’d like a simple way to follow along with this 9-day prayer, sign up here.

So, fresh from my journal pages, here are some words from His heart to mine, to yours:

“Beloved, light a path of love from within. Follow the light of your heart inward to peace. Find blessing in all things, and all things will bless you. Know that in the secret stillness, I am there. Seek me. Find me. I’m waiting. Looking for you. Will you run after me? Or will you be chased away by fears, distractions, or the Enemy? Little one, rest in my love.”

I opened a beautiful meditational I have, called “He and I,” and meditation from September 18th leaped off the page. The first words were this:

While that entire meditation is powerful, these first words cut fast. Do I truly understand this? If so, I wouldn’t be so restless. As St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

I’ve recently been watching various “great minds of today” share how they begin their day, or exercises they do in order to better themselves, and the other best “lifehacks”. And while they inspire me and motivate me, this kicked my butt. Perhaps it will kick yours too, in the best sort of butt-kicking ways. Because life will threaten to keep you on the run and restless – it will rob you of peace and joy, if you allow it. So we must remember how we overcome – go to our place of refuge – His Heart.

I hope you’ll join me in praying the Sacred Heart Novena.<3

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Do What Love Requires

mom-and-meSix years ago, my Mother died. Just two days before that, we had celebrated her 64th birthday. She had been on Hospice for a couple of weeks, and we knew her death was imminent. Even when you know your loved one is dying, it’s painful and difficult to be prepared for it on this side of heaven. Prayer, my family, friends, Hospice, and my parent’s Parish community were instrumental in preparing me as best I could be.

Do the best that you can was what my Mother often told me. As a perfectionist (recovering now), she was the positive voice in my life that would remind me it’s OK to make mistakes, and that when I did, not to beat myself up over them. And there I was, trying to do the best I could through one of the greatest trials in my life. The word that the Lord gave me to hold onto during this time was, “Do what love requires.”

I had never been present when someone took their last breath, and that was something I was trying not fear, along with the grief of losing Mom. With several of us taking turns staying next to her bedside 24-hrs, I didn’t know if I would be there or not. But, “Do what love requires.”

The night of her last earthly birthday, we had an impromptu prayer meeting around my mother’s bedside. We felt that was her birthday wish. Having grown up in a Catholic Charismatic Community and later attending the Franciscan University of Steubenville, prayer meetings were very familiar to me. With my husband, brother, and Dad, we read to her from her Bible – her most highlighted, favorite passages. We sang the old praise and worship songs that she loved from back in the day. It was beautiful, and as I reflect on it now, I think that somehow we were preparing my Mother’s soul for the throne room of God. I’m humbled greatly by that, and honored.

You see, there is something transformative about worship, and I hope that more people (especially in a world full of anguish) will come to understand and truly experience it. Worship is the gift that we can give back to God, from our heart to His. Anyone can be grateful and express praise when our hearts are full of it; but when we are in the valley, when we are fearful, anxious, sick, exhausted or whatever we are going through – it is then when worship is an act of the will. We must will to thank and praise God, and rise above our temporary feelings, into a humble posture amidst our sufferings.

In worshipping God at that time, and taking the focus off of myself and my fear and grief – I placed it all where it needed to be; and afterwards, I realized that those things had been diminished. What grew was peace, love, strength, and acceptance. Fear is not of God, but rather it is a powerful tool of the Devil. It’s rampant in our culture, and the media stokes it. And if we’re not afraid, we’re too busy or distracted. Or trying so hard to self-help ourselves out of whatever pain or problem we’re facing. Our lives are so full and busy, that it very easy to become self-centered, allowing our feelings and fears take primacy.

While self-reflection is important, if we become too focused inward, we can become overly critical and more readily judge others. What they’re doing, not doing, or should be doing. We’re so quick to want to change others, but how about ourselves? By changing ourselves through prayer, humility, and perseverance – we WILL change others.

This is one of the most important things that my Mother taught me, in her daily example, and even through her stumbling. She was a woman of prayer, and her faithfulness to her family and prayer — reading the scriptures, fasting, going to Mass, praying the Rosary —  were the steadfast example that we needed. It was the foundation that her and my Dad laid that carried our family through good times, as well as times of great suffering.

Mom showed me to be faithful to whatever you are called to at that time in your life. For her, that included Cancer – twice. Be yourself, and allow others to be who they are; yet, call each other on to be good and give your best. And while she didn’t go to college and have advanced degrees, she wasn’t a high-powered CEO of a corporation or a movie star with a platform, she did make an impact by who she was, where she was, and how she lived.

That is the power of one. One life that touches others, shapes and molds them daily, by word and action. To do what love requires of you, right where God has placed you. It may not always be fun or feel fulfilling, and it may even feel like drudgery at times; but you have the power to choose joy or not. Mom’s joy was a magnet. It was what drew people to her and made them feel at ease, and drew them into relationship with her, and to experience God through her.

Mom loved many people, and many people loved her. By just being herself, she allowed others to be themselves, and feel loved and accepted. That’s the greatest gift you can give another, truly – as it’s what we all desire most deeply. We don’t have to understand each other, but we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love is greater than tolerance. Mom showed us that love can remain, even when we don’t agree with each other, or the other’s life choices. She didn’t berate or belittle someone else for who they were or what they believed, yet she held respectfully to her own opinions and beliefs. More importantly, she lived them. If someone needed help, she was always wiling, as it wasn’t “to each his own” – but that we are the Body of Christ. And as such, if you needed correction, she would give that too. Out of love.

moms-prayer-card

On this anniversary of her death, I am thankful for the strong and nurturing example of womanhood that she was. She did what love required in her family, in her community — with joy, and that is how she changed others.

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A Special Opportunity for Mercy

Now is the time for mercy. This is a special time of mercy.

Why is this a time of mercy? 

It’s pretty obvious that our country has recently reached a new level of upheaval and unrest. Amidst the barrage of media, politics, and protests, I’ve been focusing on protecting my peace and meditating on mercy.

“In the Church today, there’s a lot of talk of the ‘time of mercy,’ a time of great grace and blessing. Why? Simply put, it’s because the times are so evil,” as Fr. Mike Gaitley says in “33 Days to Merciful Love” (see Rom 5:20.)

Furthermore, on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica, inaugurating the Jubilee of Mercy. And that Jubilee Year of Mercy is now coming to a close this Sunday, November 20th, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

(If you haven’t been following along in this Year of Mercy, there are some cliff notes at the bottom to catch you up to speed.)

There is an opportunity to receive a special kind of mercy before the Holy Doors close, on this Saturday (some Holy Doors have already closed) in many places around the world. This mercy can be received in the form of a Plenary Indulgence.

What is a Plenary Indulgence?

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”. [Source: Code of Cannon Law + CCC 1471]

What’s all this about remission of temporal punishment?

Think of this as a clean slate, in the fullest sense.

In the Sacrament of Baptism not only is the guilt of sin remitted, but also all the penalties attached to sin. In the Sacrament of Penance the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of discharging this debt during his life on earth. [Source: New Advent]

How do I get a Plenary Indulgence in the Holy Year of Mercy?

Most folks should have a few more days to obtain this special Jubilee Plenary Indulgence, so here’s the simple breakdown:

jubilee-indulgence

For more info, check out the Vatican site.

Where are the Doors of Mercy?

Here is a map of the Doors of Mercy found around the world.

NOTE: Some Holy Doors have already begun to close, so please contact the church prior to making your visit. All Holy Doors will be closed before the Pope officially closes the Year of Mercy on November 20, 2016.

What is a Jubilee Year?

The practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and evidence for it can be found in the Old Testament (for example, see Leviticus 25).  The jubilee year was called every fifty years and was a time for forgiveness.  It stood as a reminder of God’s providence and mercy.  The dedication of a year for this emphasis provided the community with a time to come back into right relationship with one another and with God.  As the practice of the jubilee year was adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness, and solidarity continued.  [Source: USCCB]

So, when was the last jubilee year? It was in 2000, during the papacy of Pope John Paul II, and was called “the Great Jubilee.”  In 1983, the Church held the last extraordinary jubilee year, celebrating 1,950 years since the death and resurrection of Christ.

What is the Holy Door?

Each diocese will have the opportunity to open a Door of Mercy in their diocese, all members of the faithful will have opportunity to make a pilgrimage to their local Holy Door during the Jubilee.  This pilgrimage is to be a journey of walking closer with God and discovering “moment[s] of grace and spiritual renewal” (MV, 3. . . ).  These doors are symbols of God’s mercy, open to welcome everyone into the compassion of God’s love that Christ proclaimed.  [Source: USCCB]

“To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them,” Pope Francis said.

May the end of your Year of Mercy bring you into a deeper encounter with the mercy of God, and a desire to be the face of mercy to others.

 

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Anniversary Memoire: Our Story

Happy_Anniversary

Five years ago we said “I do.” Funny that I’ve never posted our whole story here, so without further delay…

The Abridged Version:

Congratulations  eHarmony, yet another success story!  God, thank you for answering many, many years of prayers.

The Unabridged Version:

Captivated by her fascinating profile during the Spring Break free communication weekend in March 2010, Mike initiated communication with Lisa. Unable to see his photos, yet impressed by his choice of heroes, Jesus and Superman, she reciprocated. The normal progression of technology-based dating thus ensued:  emailing, texting, phone calling, all leading up to the hot-beverage based first date.

With entirely too much in common and always an abundance of laughter, the connection grew deeper. This man, who was very attentive to this woman’s interests, planned many memorable dates in a wholehearted effort to woo and pursue her.

In April, shortly after the relationship began, issues began to arise with Lisa’s Mom’s health. When Lisa received the news that the Doctor wanted to do more testing that fateful April night, Mike separately but simultaneously could not shake the inclination to go light a candle in St. Monica’s Marian Chapel. Without even talking that night, the Lord was moving within and through Mike to help Lisa. A help-mate. In May, the test results confirmed that the Breast Cancer that Eve had courageously battled against in 2006/2007 had returned in her bones.

During this intense time, it was the prayer and support purely given and received that revealed the truth. It showed what was in heart of hearts of these two people that had both been in search of a great love for many years.

A whirlwind of travel and events were next set into motion.  Here are the highlights:

  • In July, Lisa took Mike to Florida to meet the parents – a first! Obviously it went well.
  • In August they went to New York where she felt moved to return his “I love you’s” a top the Empire State Building, just like in Mike’s favorite classic black and white movies.
  • In September, a family wedding provided the perfect opportunity to meet more family and friends in and around her hometown in Michigan. After meeting him and seeing them together, several proposed that Mike & Lisa’s wedding would be next!
  • Over Halloween weekend, Mike took Lisa home to meet his parents. Something tipped her off that the family approved when Josie, his Mom, said she wanted “babies” and his sister wondered what the hold up was?!
  • Thanksgiving was spent at Lisa’s parents’ home, during which Mike asked for her hand in marriage. Her Father’s only request to Mike was that he could call him son instead of son-in-law, since he was like his fourth son.  Her parents later confessed that they had bought Champagne prior to their arrival, in the anticipation of celebrating their Engagement
  • Mike & Lisa returned to Florida with nephew, Abraham, to celebrate Christmas. On Christmas morning, before Richard, Eve and Abraham, Mike asked Lisa to marry him. It was a magically memorable day.

Mike’s love and support became vital for Lisa and her family during the hardest part of Eve’s journey. As Christmas approached, her Cancer took a turn for the worse. And over the course of the next month, Lisa and Mike were called to really support her parents. Special arrangements were made, and many family and friends all rallied around Eve as she spent her last days on Hospice, waiting to cross more things off her bucket list. On January 23, 2011, Eve Sanchez was called home – 2 days after her 64th Birthday.

Our family and friends, yet particularly our Mothers played a key role in this journey of the heart. Eve came to love Mike during that short time, and it was a great comfort to her that he would be there to take care of her little girl – something she had prayed for since she was a baby. Mike’s Mother had prayed for the very same thing, and had encouraged him to not lose hope—that someone was out there for him. And Mary, Our Mother, continually was there to lead and guide them closer to love.

Dallas Arboretum

On June 24th, the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, we took the next big step along the way: we professed before God and our closest family and friends our love and life-long commitment in the Sacrament of Marriage.  And thus the journey has continued, and more chapters will still be written to chronicle our story.  We invite you to be the characters that fill those pages as well…

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Tribute to Mom: Behind The Bucket List Wedding Dress Story

verily magazine

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, this is your story…

There are many treasured moments that I shared with my Mother, and then there were moments that have changed me — even though it has taken time for me to truly understand how. I first wrote this piece that Verily magazine just published back in 2012. Part of my grieving process a year after my Mom passed, I wanted to capture the beauty of that experience. My desire was also to have the story published, which I attempted a few times that spring without success. I knew that in its due season it would be shared, but it likely would still be lying dormant in my archives had the Verily Editor not reached out for another story and my husband not encouraged me to give it another shot. I’m grateful to him, and my friends and family that have shown their love and support.

Read, “I Learned the Secret to a Happy Marriage While Fulfilling My Mom’s Dying Wish” here.

BONUS: Scroll down below the pictures for an unpublished bonus part of this story, an exchange that reminded me God’s loving care and tender mercies in the final weeks of my Mom’s life. It is the Year of Mercy after all.

This story really is a tribute to the woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, Godmother, Aunt, cousin, friend — all of who she was, and the profound impact on our lives and the imprint that she’s left on our hearts. These are pictures captured while I was trying the dresses on for my Mom, as well as a bridal portrait with my Sweet Mother Mary and my Mom’s Rosary, wearing my wedding dress and my birthstone jewelry that she gave me. Also, I had to include a shot with Mary Katherine, the sweet dress shop owner, that made it all possible. {Bridal shot by John Wehlage}

wedding dress hospicemom bucket listmary katherines fine ladiesmonth of maryMary Katherines wedding dresses

STORY BONUS:

…Changing out of the last dress, my heart had expanded.  Humbled, I confided in my new friend, “My mom loves Angels. There are over seventy that she has collected, all over this house. Mary-Katherine, you were our Angel today.”

“No, it was my blessing,” she responded, without hesitation.

“I am a one-year breast cancer survivor,” she told me. She had been a Medical Social Worker for about twenty years, and had served on the Board of Hospice for five years. I was now making it a habit of crying to Mary-Katherine.

Throughout her second battle with cancer that eventually claimed her life, Mom reminded us that we can laugh and find joy amidst the suffering of life. She cherished the opportunities to celebrate life and love in all circumstances. I hardly expected to have a profound experience of love while trying to cross one more thing off Mom’s Bucket List; yet I discovered a love that draws people together and carries them through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.


As it is Mother’s Day, I send love and blessings to all the mothers in their many faces: moms, godmothers, foster moms, adoptive moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers, spiritual mothers. Happy Mother’s Day! I also send my love and prayers to those whose mothers have passed, to grieving mothers, and women who grieve to become mothers – the Lord knows your suffering, may you know His peace.

If you haven’t read my previous article at Verily, 6 Pieces of Hard-Earned Advice I Gained From My Single Years,” check it out.

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5 Books to Advance Your Spiritual Journey

Spiritual-JourneyCan you believe we are halfway through our Lenten Spiritual Journey? It serves as a great checkpoint, and opportunity to provide some inspiration.

My 40/40/40 Prayer Pact has been a more intense experience this second time around. Within the first few days, there was a feeling of a mounting Spiritual Battle, and an ensuing attack. Then, one friend that had signed up asked me to pray for an extremely ill family member. Five days after the day that I prayed for this intention, that family member passed away — may perpetual light shine upon her. This all reinforced the need for daily prayer and spiritual nourishment.

In order to allow the Lord to guide us through the ups and downs of our daily walk, it’s vital to find ways to truly nourish ourselves spiritually. One easy and effective way to advance in our spiritual journey is through reading. The Bible is the ultimate book – obviously it’s our Spiritual Superfood. Reading other books should supplement and compliment your Scripture reading, not replace it.

I have shelves of spiritual books, even ones from back in the day studying Theology at Franciscan University, but I have some staples. I do have books on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read that may be rivals for some on my list, (to name a couple: “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr. Mike Gaitley – an old college friend; and “Be Healed” by Dr. Bob Schuchts – a Catholic Therapist that led the Healing retreat that I went on in 2014). While I could pontificate on the many spiritual books I love, the five below are my tried and true list.

NOTE: I’ve linked the books to Goodreads so you can learn more about them. Incidentally, all of these books have over 4.5-star ratings there. I always recommend that you support your local Catholic bookstores first if you want to buy any of them – shop small whenever possible!

  1. I Believe In Love by Jean C.J. d’Elbée, “is a guide to happiness based on the teaching of one who found it entirely: St Thérèse of Lisieux.” I’ve had this book since I was in college, and by the looks of my copy, it shows. It is like taking a personal retreat about the interior life based on the childlike spirituality of St. Thérèse – probably because it’s derived from the retreats of the Priest that’s the author. There are powerful insights – such as on humble confidence and total abandonment to Christ – in this beautiful book.
  2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. A classic, this book is almost a manual for spiritual development. The meditations by this 15th c. Augustinian monk on the spiritual life have inspired many through the years, including great Saints and Popes. “No book has more explicitly and movingly described the Christian ideal.”
  3. Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Jacques Philippe. An old Priest friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I can’t hold onto it because I keep giving my copies away – it’s THAT good. A small book, it’s one you could easily finish before Easter. But it has profound spiritual wisdom that really helped me: I can now see how the Enemy attacks with the aim of disturbing my peace as an entry point. Everyone craves peace – this book will help you in the spiritual practice of maintaining peace in your heart.
  4. Abide: Keeping Vigil With the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr. Recommended to me in Spiritual Direction, the book leads you through how “to make the Word of God your home through the practice of lectio divina.” It is about going deeper into the Word, meditating, and thus going deeper into your relationship with Christ. It’s full of meditations, reflections, and prayers around numerous scripture passages. If you want to learn to pray the Scriptures, this is the book to help you.
  5. The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J.M. Nouwen. If you’ve never read Henri Nouwen before, you need to change that. This book, his “secret journal”, was written during the most difficult time in his life. He published it at the urging of friends, as it felt it was too raw and private. But his vulnerability, sharing “the fierce inner battle that lies underneath so many of [his] spiritual insights”, provides consolation. If you’ve suffered through any type of anguish and despair, you will find solace in the pages of this book.

What books would you recommend as guidebooks along our spiritual journey? Add them in the com box!

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