Crosses and Trials

Comfort: It’s what our bodies desire and our society cultivates and caters too. I would’ve taken an upgrade to First Class in a heartbeat on either of my flights home yesterday from Vancouver, had it been offered. While I would’ve avoided the manspreading fella on the first flight, I would’ve missed the adventurous couple whose love for life and travel was contagious. The husband gave a compliment to one of the Flight Attendants, the kind where it was visible how much it meant to her. The wife kept beating her husband playing Gin, mocking that her hands were tired from shuffling the cards too much, which amused both of us ladies as he half-heartedly griped.

We crave comfort while the call of the Christian life is the opposite — it is the cross. Christ calls us daily to pick up our cross and follow him, and some days are harder than others. The cross is the school of Christ, while it is painful it is also purifying.

st therese quotes

This quote, “I reserve crosses and trials for you,” is from page 133 of Therese’s autobiography (see more below) and a reference to Luke 22:29. Christ says he appoints us unto the Kingdom that God appoints to him – yet we must be worthy of it. Therese explains that as Christ suffered before he entered into glory, “if you desire to have a place by His side, then drink the chalice He has drunk!”

What if we viewed our crosses as trails chosen by God so that we too may enter into his glory?

I’m not going to say it’s going to feel great, friends. But which is more true – to trust your feelings or God? If we have glory with God set in our minds as the destination, then it can transform us along the journey if we allow it.

I am reminded of how we spent this last heavenly birthday of my Mom, January 21, 2019. It was in the ER with my Dad.

We had just added a Pain Management Doctor to the list of specialists which totaled 15 Doctors including his Primary Care. Dad had been given a new pain med that previous week which caused serious adverse reactions – the worst of which was altered mental status (hallucinations, agitated, very confused). He’d had a lot of Edema below the waist that his Home Health Nurse attributed to not have compression on his lower extremities for a few days. Off the meds, he had been getting better the weekend before Mom’s birthday but felt very weak.

Then that Monday (birthday) morning, an untrained shuttle driver failed to properly strap my Dad’s wheelchair before taking him to Dialysis. He tried to tell her, but she drove off and on the first turn on the road, he fell over in his wheelchair — hitting his head and side on the floor. If it could be worse, she then pulled over, put him back, and continued to drive him to Dialysis without reporting it. It was my Dad that called me on his cellphone from the back of the shuttle!

Infuriated, I called the Director of his facility and things were set into motion there. He complained of pain in his hip and leg, but after an initial evaluation, he thankfully was oriented x3. He had such fluid build-up, that we proceeded with Dialysis with the plan to immediately transport him (not the same driver, of course) to the ER afterward, where I’d meet him. He was taken to the hospital where he had been receiving wound care 2x a week on his feet, and where he finally got into Hyperbaric treatments before they had to do further amputations – to his leg.

When I met Dad at the ER, although I was angry and worried, I was thankful he was alive and lucid. I asked God to not only help us through that day’s trial but to also help us celebrate my Mom’s life. The blessings came, here are a few: Doctors and Nurses that were so kind and accommodating; Dad’s regular (trained) shuttle driver had come to take over and stayed with us the 4-hours in the ER to transport him back properly in his chair so as to not cause more discomfort; my Husband brought dinner to us, ravenous after hours in the ER, and a cupcake for Mom that we sang over and split. We smiled as we remembered her. And back at his Assisted Living, his caretakers were also upset and promised to look after him carefully throughout the night.

Despite what we lacked in physical comfort, the Holy Spirit – the Comforter, provided graces for the moment in abundance. Here’s the thing — I had to ask, and receive it, which is possible even amidst the chaos.

If you’ve followed my blog at all (thanks!), you’ll know I have a devotion to Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux. If you’re new, a hearty welcome and I hope we’ll connect here or elsewhere more, I’ve posted links below to former posts – which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese. Today I begin the Novena to St. Therese, the Little Flower – as it ends on her Feast Day, October 1st. Some other wonderful resources, such as Praymorenovenas.com, started yesterday — either way, it’s a beautiful time of prayer that I encourage you to take advantage of.

While I do reference St. Therese throughout other posts, these writings I’ve compiled on the Little Flower will pass along bits of her spiritual insights. You can follow along on the links below, and I’ll be posting more of my hand lettering quotes on my Instagram, so follow along there too @lisanch

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10 Things Learned Through 10 Years of Blogging

Hard to believe that 10-years ago today, I launched this blog. I have vivid memories of 2009, and I don’t recall all those memories with fondness. In fact, a series of disruptive events changed the course of my life that year. 2019 has brought its share of disruption as well. My 10th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to reflect on my journey as a blogger and end with a big announcement!

In 2009 we were amidst the Great Recession, during which I got fired. That’s a whole different blog post but suffice it to say I was somehow both blindsided and expecting a change in occupation. Amidst the suppressive heat of Texas in July, I joined the band of the unemployed. I was humiliated, humbled, and learning some tough lessons. But I also knew that God had another plan.

If that wasn’t enough, life decided that other changes were due. I went through a breakup, my phone died, and was in a car accident where I was at fault. I think a root canal may also have been in there (painful to the pocket and the mouth), but you get the point.

I remember how challenging that time was, especially as a single woman with 100% responsibility of the bills and mortgage. But I also recall how significant challenges opened up great opportunities for God to move and work. Just a couple of brief examples of how God showed up big:

  • I made a road trip to Louisiana to visit dear friends there, as I had lived and worked there right before Dallas. While visiting my friend and former boss, she offered some work and got to travel with her to New Orleans. That got me rolling once again.
  • While praying with my BFF, I felt God ask me to invite her to come to live with me. A few weeks later, after prayer and some clarity between her and God, she interviewed in Dallas and accepted a job 10-minutes from what became our Condo! We lived together there until I met my husband and got married, and she was our Maid of Honor. She later met her husband in Dallas, and I was her Matron of Honor and my husband their groomsman.
    The crazy events of 2009 managed to reinforce Maria von Trapp’s view that when God closes a door, he opens a window. Hence this blog’s name: “Closed Doors Open Windows.”

God had my full attention amidst all of those big life events. The suffering that broke my heart urged me to begin to open it more to let Him speak to it. I started working on myself again, which included attending inner-healing sessions at my Church. I also began to discover how I could do things that I loved and build new skills while getting paid for it.

I may have been on unemployment, searching for a job amidst a terrible economic downturn, but God always provided.

I was at some networking event when a recruiter that I met recommended starting a blog at that time as a concrete way for me to begin pursuing my passion for writing. I’m glad that I followed her advice.

One needs not just to love writing to maintain a personal blog, but also be willing to be committed and work on it. While I share below some reasons why my writing here has been less than prolific as of late, I still hope that this space has provided things that have resonated with y’all, and even caused some folks to ponder more themselves in these past ten years.

In honor of my blog-anniversary, here are 10 things that I’ve learned about blogging over the past 10-years. And don’t forget about my exciting news at the end!

blogging tips

  1. Millions of blogs are still published daily. In March 2019, it was reported by Worldometers that over 4.4 million blog posts are published every day! That’s a massive amount of web content, WOW!
  2. Be patient, grasshopper. Building a blog and gaining readership takes consistent effort realized over time. If you’re willing to put in that time and effort, your patience will be worth it.
  3. Blogging well and consistently takes incredible discipline. Planning solid content, taking /editing/finding photos, creating branded graphics, writing, editing, posting – i.e., all the back-end work takes time (energy). Reserving the energy needed for that and then expending it on something that could be anything from income-driven to passion project (aka non-paying) requires discipline.
  4. Sometimes (or a lot of times) you may wonder if your blog makes an impact. Especially if you’re not a social media influencer with 10,000+ followers or content writing for a well-known brand; however, if you love it and it gives you a purpose – then do it regardless of if it’s meant for the masses or one soul.
  5. Be wise. If everything becomes too much at some point, it’s good to step back and take a break from blogging. Usually writing here is my outlet, but I haven’t written on this blog in over a year. While I previously blogged during my Mother’s illness and death, it was simpler and more effective to use Facebook to keep my family and friends updated on recent life events. The past few years have brought a series of significant transitions for us. Caring for my Dad through serious illnesses until he died this past March was my calling and increasing became my focus over the past two years. Since I was his only child/family member in Austin, those responsibilities required a great deal of my energy. I’m working on being gentle with myself amidst the grieving process, so while I have plans and projects, I’m trying to take it slow. I treasure and have no regrets about the time I spent with my Dad and am glad that put writing and maintaining a blog on the back burner.
  6. Know your readers. Who are the people that actually visit your blog? And what do they love and hate? As writers, we want to share our story, our expertise, and opinions. Blogging is only words on a screen unless someone reads it and can connect to it, and hopefully find it helpful or inspiring in some way. So, while it’s important to share, it’s also essential to know your people. What do they value or find inspiring? Knowing who they are and what matters to them is how best to connect and support them. Checking which of your posts are the most popular is a simple and effective way to do this.
  7. Be authentic. I’ve worked for people who wanted massive blog results yet weren’t fully transparent with me about the true purpose of their blogging. Whatever your goal is – whether it’s trying to build up your business or to share your journey through cancer – articulate it and then work the plan for your blog outwards from there. To be authentic requires vulnerability, which is uncomfortable – so some may hold back a little or a lot. Holding back may serve your comfort level but won’t create a lasting impact. We may think we need to blog Pinterest perfect, and while content needs to be well-crafted, people want something authentic. Real people that are flawed can relate to flawed bloggers.
  8. Share your passion. Can you tell the difference between bloggers sharing about things that they’re passionate about versus writing content because it will have good ROI? I can. It feels like the difference between staying up to read a page-turner book and skimming an informative article. Write about the things in your wheelhouse that you’re passionate about – and that will attract others who are curious or excited about the same thing.
  9. Take some risks. I shared this graphic that I made yesterday on Instagram/Twitter (Hey let’s follow each other! Hit me up on the ‘Gram: @lisanch + Twitter: @LSanMartini)writer quotesGreat writers are willing to push the envelope as needed. But writers are also artists. Art comes from feeling deeply, so please don’t confuse all of us with a tribe of ego-maniacs who feel 100% comfortable putting our craft out there for public praise or trashing. Sharing our writings allows people to know us – our thoughts, feelings, and opinions – and once posted, it’s out there. The world is a hyper-sensitive place right now with offended people making their voices boom through the media (social or news). One dumb tweet can obliterate your career. Be smart in your risks — draw from the other points (wisdom, authenticity, passion, etc.) Risks are worthwhile to those who stay humble and continue to grow wise.
  10. Cultivate your voice. Writers need to work on our craft to improve. Find resources and methods that help to cultivate your voice. I’ve found it helpful to read books about writing by successful writers and follow blogs – especially about writing or by writers. Writing is like other skills – you have to work at it to improve. Be willing to adapt. If what you’re passionate about doesn’t resonate well with others – then it’s time to reassess your approach which requires being receptive to feedback. If you want excellent output, seek the best input.

I’ve learned a lot in these past ten years that has shaped and prepared me for what God has next. Speaking of, here’s that news I promised earlier.

I’m excited to share that I’m writing my first book! An item on my bucket list for years, it feels good to be making positive strides towards this goal. The topic is not something that I ever dreamed of writing about, nor something that I’ve shared little to nothing about publicly. The book will be about infertility.

Often silent suffering, God has reaffirmed that it’s needed. But it’s not just my story or another resource book; it’s going to be different. God has placed it on my heart that wants to give a new voice to this age-old problem and bring solace and solidarity to the women who carry this cross. We cannot heal things unless we expose them to the light; so I’ve been doing more healing work and writing along the way.

Whatever you’re going through, please know that you’re not alone on this broken path to restoration, friends. We’re all traveling it in our own way – whether it’s trudging or learning to fly.

More changes and exciting announcements to come in due time. I hope y’all continue to join and share with me too along the journey!

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Setting Up a Creative & Organized Home Office

I’ve worked everywhere from corporate space to Mom + Pop’s home offices, and now I have been at home for 5+ years. I’ve got a firm grasp on what is needed for optimal working conditions.

“There are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative.” -Ed Catmull, Pixar Co-Founder

One action item that I’ve been working on to remove blocks to creativity is to be intentional in the form and function of my office space. As a creative and an Entrepreneur, the more that my environment fosters things like innovation, artistry, inspiration, vision, enterprise, and resourcefulness, the better. Knowing what feeds and what inhibits my workflows and inspiration gave me the foundational pieces to set up a creative and organized home office.

Here are the best tips and tricks for setting up a creative and organized home office. This is packed with hacks for an inspiring and productive workspace — even with links to some of my favorite items — ending with “Command Central”, so don’t miss out on that!

ENTREPRENEUR'S ADVICE (1)

The best way to start planning your space is to answer some fundamental questions that determine what quintessential pieces to incorporate into your space. I list mine here so that when you look at the pictures, you’ll see how the elements manifested in my home office decor and layout.

What do you love – things that inspire you, that are meaningful, that are important, that keep you motivated.
A few of my loves: My Catholic Faith, family, books, writing, art, design, innovators, the outdoors.

What do you need to stay organized, i.e. the papers, supplies, tools, and technology essential to keeping things efficient and orderly.
Some things that keep me organized: Labeled files, binders, filing cabinets separated by personal & work, a receipt system, mail system, two computer screens, whiteboard, dry-erase weekly menu planner and monthly calendar, cork board, clipboard, sticky notes, index cards, separate colored notebooks for my journal, business, and writing. On my laptop, tablet + phone: Evernote app for note taking, organizing, tasks lists, and archiving; Freshbooks Cloud Accounting.

How do you experience peace and comfort through your five senses?
My five senses find peace and comfort through calming color palettes, soft lighting, music, aromatherapy, candles, recliner chair, adjustable desk + chair, cool design, art, quotes, photos – especially of loved ones.

Finally, it’s time to tour my office! With my pics and descriptions, I’ve even included links to some of my favorite items.

To your right, as you walk through the door, is my mail system and my remote for the overhead light and fan. The 3 metal envelopes provide easy-access for me or my Hubby, and easily separates mail that is 1) Personel; 2) Business; 3) Concerning my Dad. I was excited to also see these cute galvanized tin envelopes also at Magnolia Market because I love Joanna’s style!

metal wall envelope

Right around the corner is a cozy and effective multi-functional space.

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My reclining chair with a side pocket provides a nice spot to pray, read, relax, think, as well as seating for a visitor. It sits upon a 4×6 grey Arizona Rug, set on the diagonal. I love the Edison bulb in my brushed metal lamp, as the innovator Thomas Edison is one of my heroes. IMG_4459.jpgThe espresso file cabinet looks nicer than a metal one, but doesn’t hold a whole lot of files – so I’ve had to get file boxes to begin purging files to keep archive records. More compact and visually interesting, I love my spine bookcase!

I carefully chose my artwork for that wall: 1) (Top left) Photo taken during the private Mass 6 of us Franciscan University Students attended with St. Pope John Paul II; 2) (Bottom Left) A Stylistic Survey of Graphic Design 1820 – Present. Found this poster at a shop in Fredericksburg, TX; 3) Lighthouse artwork. This piece that pays homage to the lighthouse in my business logo, illuvint, was a $50+ Hobby Lobby piece that I snagged at my local Thriftshop for about $2.50.

On the adjacent wall, I needed a tool to inspire and layout my book writing.

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I was tired of my clunky cork board. I’m loving the aesthetic of these hex cork tiles, which were a Pinterest win thanks to HGTV! I hand-cut these hexagons from cork tiles (you can buy them already cut for about 4x as much), painter-taped off half of them + brushed them with my office colors, and attached them to my wall with double-sided adhesive mounting tape. The “faith” sign was something I picked up for around $10 at Burkes Outlet.

How do I plan to use the hex board? As my storyboard! I’ve been writing out the key components on index cards for the book that I’m writing. Using trusty push-pins, I’ll be able to keep my outline here, unlike my whiteboard, to stay organized and motivated throughout my writing process.

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Below my geometric storyboard is a small table that I thrifted, refinished, and distressed to match my office colors.

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The aromatherapy diffuser is a sensory piece that sits atop that table, which was a thoughtful birthday gift. There are a number of essential oils that I can blend depending on what is needed in the given moment – focus, calm, energy, etc. It glows with a variety of colored lights too.

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UPDATED: These two options for your electrical outlets are handy hacks. They both offer “ports” for charging and electrical outlets, to keep your phone/tablet chargers plugged in while still keeping outlets free. The top 1 is my new fav, offering high energy surge protection and 4 pivoting outlets for plugs, adapters and USB cables. This isn’t the same brand as mine (I think it’s discontinued!), but HERE is the same style of a pivoting outlet surge protector that also gets 4.5 stars on Amazon. TIP: Check the “gadgets section” of your local discount stores (i.e. Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross) for these, as I purchased both of mine there.

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UPDATE: Also, if you don’t have a longer charging cord for your devices, do yourself a favor – spend a little for big convenience. These are not the ones they include with the phone, but longer length cords. TIP: I do NOT recommend getting knock-off cords on the cheap online – I’ve done it, and while they’ve worked for awhile (or not, I’ve had them fray at the connection point in less than 2 weeks), mine always eventually start to rapid-flicker on & off while plugged in. Inevitably I’ll get a “this device is not supported by Apple” message. I have the 2-meter lightning cable from Apple, and it’s been a life-saver. I’ve used it in all sorts of rooms, from my office to the hospital, and it allows me to charge my iPad while using it at a comfortable length from the outlet.

Next is the wall that sits directly across from the door, my primary workstation.

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My adjustable rolling office chair and a curved desk aren’t the prettiest Pinterest picks, but they do provide proper back & neck support. I’ve lowered my desk to the right ergonomic height for me, and my chair to place my feet flat on the floor while I can set both my forearms on my curved desk surface. This supports better posture, which improves my chronic pain and headaches.

I love my metallic luminary lamp (not lit in this shot) sitting next to my small desktop drawers with a desk-supply holder sitting atop it. My printer sits on another file cabinet that I refinished – spray painted black and drawers covered in Isaac Mizrahi floral Self Adhesive Shelf Liner. 

Having a tabletop desk has pros and cons. Cons – no shelves. Pros, lots of space for more than just your feet. Underneath my desk, I store a large paper shredder, mesh cans for trash and recycling, and my metal rolling file cart (not pictured here).

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I’ve been pining for floating shelves. More thrift store finds (the middle one was another Hobby Lobby $50 original piece at Goodwill for a few bucks), I painted the top and bottom shelves black and got hardware from Lowes for them. I originally wanted the shelves for my books but found that aesthetically and structurally it was better to shelve lighter and more sentimental pieces.

If you haven’t noticed, I have a devotion to Our Lady, particularly Guadalupe. I purchased the print locally and that is the second frame I got for it, as the glass shattered in the first. Each of the other items – photos, religious articles, books, and the air plant – all hold special significance and serve as inspiration and/or motivation for my “why.”

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Next to my desk is my chock full o’ goodies closet. Here I store things like paper, art supplies, crochet supplies, envelopes, equipment, jackets, files, stationery, bags, etc.

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Command Central serves as the organizational center for the different hats that I wear. Check out my organizational system below:

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The whiteboard was custom built by my handy Hubby, out of this 4′ x 6′ adhesive dry-erase surface mounted on Home Depot whiteboard. Below it, Ikea kitchen rail + utensil holders house my dry-erase supplies. Clipboards are always handy, but I’d like to outline a weekly cleaning routine and keep it there. That will help me spend less Saturday clean-a-thons.

I use color-coded poly file jackets to separate my receipts between business, nonprofit, personal, and my Dad. I have 2017 at the top as I prepare my taxes for my accountant and 2018 at the bottom with tax paperwork as well. From there, I can place necessary biz or charity receipts in the appropriate binders with plastic sheet protectors by month for expense tracking.

The bright dry-erase calendar is a good at-a-glance for the month, with a bit of room on the side for notes if needed.

After years of on-the-spot-what’s-in-my-fridge cooking, I decided it was time for a weekly menu planner dry-erase board. It’s cute and will make adding my grocery list items to our shopping list app less frantic.

The file folder holders on the bottom right are an old magazine rack from Ikea. The stool I snagged at Home Goods and is perfect for when I’m doing extensive white-boarding work.

BONUS {UPDATED}:  After years of drawing, I’ve been trying my hand at watercolors, and would like to expand into acrylic painting. For Christmas, I wanted an easel but wanted something that could be compact and mobile. I got my wishlist French wooden Easel Sketch Box, and am looking forward to working with it!

I’ve gained these office tricks, tips, and hacks over decades of working in many different offices. I’d love to hear – what works best for you in your office?

Let’s Pray Each Other Through Lent

what to do for Lent

Can I pray for you this Lent?
Or are you wondering what to do for Lent?
Lent, as in NEXT week!

This is the third year that I’ve done the Lenten Prayer Pact, aka the 40/40/40. I pray for:

40 prayer intentions

For 40 people

In 40 days

I’ve got my first slots filled, but need more people to pray for!
So what do you need to do? All of the details, the sign-up form, and the FREE downloads to do your own – or for your classroom or kiddos – EVERYTHING is found here:

>>>>2018 Lenten Prayer Pact Sign-up + Details<<<<

If you’re wondering what impact the 40/40/40 had after my first Lent, you can read more here.

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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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