Merry Martinez Christmas Card & Annual Letter

With the passing of another year, it’s my favorite time to reflect and capture some the highlights of the year.

Sharing blessings begets more blessings – so since my mailing list has limits, but my blog does not, l’d love to share our Merry Martinez Christmas Card and Annual Letter.

So, from our heart and home to yours…. 

Martinez Christmas Card

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Dear friends, family, and CDOW community,

This time we ushered in the New Year differently. Coming from a South Texas Christmas enjoyed with Mike’s family, we took a couple of days for a planning retreat in a place we had talked about for years, Fredericksburg. The Old Rectory was the name of our Texas Hill Country B&B, which served as the inspiring ambiance for partners in life and business to begin the work of 2014. Enchanted Rock was the perfect nature escape on our way back to Dallas, right before some Cooper’s BBQ. Yes, Texans love old time pit barbecue.

We whisper prayers, some for years and others only once, never knowing what form the outcome will actually take. “Expand our territory, Lord,” Lisa prayed. Within a couple of weeks, by no effort on our part, our small business was in discussions with two international organizations — one in Rome and one in Southern Arabia. With only illuvint’s logo stuck on our landing page, in February we submitted our first international bid to work with the Catholic Church in Oman, Yemen, and UAE. In April, we were officially awarded the bid for their rebranding project! This has also fulfilled Lisa’s (Tolkien geek) dream to speak to a Gandalf in real life, as that is the name of the Capuchin Priest that serves as the Bishop’s Secretary.

Another great blessing came on the feast of the Assumption, March 25th, in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nicole, a dear Canadian friend and former roomie from Lisa’s Ave Maria College working days, married her long-awaited Helpmate, Brian. With a rescheduled business trip planned in Virginia a few days later, Lisa trekked solo to the Nuptials in the Great White North; but was warmly welcomed by gracious friends of the couple. The wedding was a beautiful celebration, born out of the community truly pulling together for the Newlyweds. Thankfully, new friends Mark, Maria, and Luke did not mind their houseguest crashing for a few extra days when Lisa’s flight got cancelled on account of getting snowed in.

It was rough…eating Lobster and making Snow Angels with little Luke, but such is life. What a joy, to celebrate marriage and make new friends!

illuvint’s team went through an expansion this year as well. We brought on new partners to collaborate with us, and are grateful for the ways that Monica Hildebrand, John Clem, Erika Higgins, Gerry Whitney, and our first intern — Maddie Stigler, enriched our lives and business. Joining with a startup is not an easy task, so we are grateful for them, and our original partners who have labored alongside us in this digital effort. We were particularly tickled to finally launch our company website in June,!

June brought our 3rd Wedding Anniversary and a few Graduation celebrations – including Simon, Mike’s Godson. His parents, our dear friends Trish and Joseph, had been planning his Graduation present for 3 years, and we were honored to be a part of it. A small group of us hiked up Pike’s Peak in August, inspired by the transformation – physical and otherwise – of our friends. You can read all about this amazing journey at: Joseph’s blog,, and at where Lisa Hendey featured Lisa Martinez’s travel blogs. That incredible three-week trip included Pike’s Peak, Telluride, Las Cruces (NM), Alpine + other West Texas towns with great friends.

Back in July, Lisa traveled to be with her Dad in Florida during the first of what turned out to be a series of leg surgeries to clean out his veins. That gave a great excuse to leave a day early to spend the night with her brother, Jeff, Annette & kids — vacationing at Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando. Dad pulled through the surgery like a champ, and Lisa was grateful to visit with two of her Uncles who had been very ill. Congrats to Mike who started a new position at Experian at that time, in Information Risk Management. We also enjoyed a visit from our old friend, Sugar, and crew.

After 7-years in Texas, Lisa finally attended the State Fair of Texas with Mike in September. They enjoyed all things fried (including the renown Corny Dog), watching the Hog Races, and Mike nailed the Ford Fusion car simulator like a boss. The following week, Mike was thrilled that one of his favorite musicians, Scottish singer/songwriter Justin Currie’s tour brought him here, so we enjoyed that intimate show at the Kessler Theater.

October was busy. A highlight of that month was to reconnect with some good friends back in Dallas at the UD Ministry Conference. Some important brainstorming meetings happened there, and there are some grand future visions that we’re drilling down behind the scenes. As partners in life and work, we’ve been deeply discerning some big next steps in life and business – 2015 should be quite a ride!

November brought more road tripping. Lisa joined colleague/friend, Monica, at a Healing Retreat in Georgetown; Mike joined buddies, Tim and Bill, for a guys weekend in Austin. Afterwards we relished a few days with our cousins, Thomas and Claudia, and met with an Austin realtor to discuss possible surrounding areas to relocate next year, God-willing.

From Austin, we roadtripped to New Orleans. There, we finally met Holly & John, our clients/friends, and their fab group of San Diegans for two great celebrations: The launch of Holly’s new company, that we’ve supported since meeting through mutual friend/Co-Founder Tim Foley; AND John Carney’s (a 23-year NFL kicker) induction in the Saints Hall of Fame. The spectacular events, fun, and new friendships formed will always be remembered fondly. From NOLA we trekked 11 hours to San Benito, Texas, to spend Thanksgiving with family and visit Mike’s Uncle, in critical condition in the ICU. Thankfully we were able to share time with family during very precious hours.

WOW, what a year 2014 has been!

Thanks, and a special blessing to all of you who have been a part of it in one way or another! Merry Christmas!


Mike & Lisa

The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His Presence.” (unknown)

©2014 Lisa Martinez, Christmas card design + letter, which appeared first here at

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Advent Meditation

Patience quotes

As we begin our Advent journey, this is the message I have been given to meditate upon.

“Patience with others is LOVE. Patience with self is HOPE. Patience with God is FAITH.” – Adel Bestavros

Ever since I was a little version of myself, I have thought, acted, and spoke quickly. Mover and a shaker – I’ve been called that a time or two. It’s how I was created to be, to get things done. But it can flip to become my biggest weakness – impatient!

One is the lessons that is still the hardest for me to embrace is staying still, quiet — not acting – and simply being patient.

Maturity in life and in our spiritual journeys demands patience. The majority of life happens in the “waiting” and if we are always trying to rush through it, then we will miss out on much of the golden nuggets buried in life.

I am preaching to myself right now, but I pray that this will bless another soul too.

My husband and I have been in a time of deep discernment about many big life things. While my natural tendency is to “Haste, haste”, I know that the Lord is slowly unveiling His plan as He moves each little piece of His Will bit-by-bit into place.

If you share my tendency to hustle, I’d invite you to sit with this meditation for some quiet time as well. See what wisdom it wants to speak to your heart during this Advent season, as we wait and yearn for the birth of our King. This season of waiting has been given to us a gift, not as a punishment. We are to prepare our hearts, not just our shopping lists!

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Prayer for the Strengthening of Marriages

Prayer for Marriages

A sweet friend recently sent me a “spiritual toolbox” with some specific items that she picked up for my husband and I while traveling in Medjugorje, Assisi, San Giovanni Rotundo, and Rome. Included in those was this small devotional to Our Lady Undoer of Knots – a once obscure 300-year-old sacred image by master painter Johann Schmidtner. According to this Steubenville Press booklet pictured here, this is quickly becoming the fastest growing Marian devotion in the world today.

The story behind the painting is one of a real family that struggled through marital disunity, yet through prayerful intercession, there was a powerful reconciliation. It is said to be a favorite devotion of Pope Francis, and I can imagine as the Synod on the Family continues with Church leaders, he is asking for Our Mama’s help in these very trying times concerning issues with marriage and the family.

It’s a beautiful prayer, and I am quite certain that if not you, someone who is deeply struggling in their marriage will benefit from it. So please, share!

One quick note before the prayer, as some may wonder (like myself at one point many years ago) “Why pray to Mary?” Good question. Simply: Christ gave us the gift of His Mother from the Cross to be a powerful intercessor on our behalf. As Catholics, we do not worship Mary – we ask the vessel that brought us Our Savior to pray with and for us.

Speaking from personal experience: If you struggle having a relationship with the Mother of God, ask her to help you. I did when I was a college student, and it opened me up to the most beautiful example of purity, womanhood, spiritual motherhood, etc… Mary has answered many prayers and requests of mine through the years, including leading my dear Husband to me (another story for another day), so believe me when I say, this Jewish Mama will hook you up!!

Prayer for the Strengthening of Marriages

Blessed Mother, take into your hands
the knots that affect married couples,
and with your long fingers of love and grace
undo these knots for the glory of God.
Visit married couples with your grace,
renew their sacramental covenant,
increase God’s love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace
so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

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Allergies & Best Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies


My husband and I try to eat healthy, but we’re definitely not all gung-ho gluten free. I must admit I’ve had a long-standing love affair with nearly all things “bread”, and particularly pizza. Next week I have to go for 3 days of allergy testing (insert head slump here). I must admit that my fear, despite everything that could show up in the results, is that my allergies will include gluten, wheat, and dairy. I know that  a lot of people have it (including some dear friends), and that they learn to manage it, and there are many great recipes and dishes, and so on and so forth.

There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth if my Dr. says bread and cheese are off the Lisa-friendly list of foods. #justsayin #sorryinadvance

Ok, I just had to get that out, thanks.

My Dad’s side of the family is riddled with allergies. I have had allergy & asthma issues probably all of my life, but I have never managed them well. Finally sick and tired (literally) of feeling so bad day-in-and-day-out, and having developed skin allergies last year, I made an appointment with an Allergist in July. During our first meeting he said,

Your allergies aren’t bad. They are HORRIBLE!

“Well, that’s why I’m here, Doc!” I thought to myself.

So, the next step in this process is allergy testing. My Doctor likes the more reliable old-school skin-prick test. Oh boy, this will be three days of fun that launch into a series of life changes, I’m sure. But if feeling better is the result, then it’s time for a change.

So, in honor of what may or may not be gluten-free days ahead, I found this recipe on my bag o’ Rolled Oats this morning, and thought, “What the heck, let’s give it a go.” Also, as we usher in the fall season (although it doesn’t feel like that in Dallas yet), baking Oatmeal Cookies just feels natural.

I’m glad I did – gluten free or not, I would not only eat these cookies, but gift them! My picky husband loved them too – and didn’t believe that they were gluten free. The peanut butter, walnuts, oats, and chocolate chips are such a well-balanced blend.

As my Mom taught me, pull your eggs and butter out of the fridge first a bit before you back so that they temp out.

Enjoy these delicious (and more nutritious) gluten free cookies!


Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies

Yields: Approx 48 cookies (depending on thickness)


1/4 c. butter

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 c. sugar (I used “Sugar in the Raw”)

3 c. Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats

3/4 c. brown sugar

6 oz. chocolate chips

2 eggs

1/2 c. sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts (I used walnuts)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. peanut butter (I used natural honey peanut butter)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and butter and beat until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and baking soda and mix well.
  4. Add peanut butter and mix.
  5. Stir in oats, chocolate chips and nuts.
  6. Place teaspoon full of dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around edges.
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Blogging, Traveling, Working & 14er Climbing

If things have been a bit quiet here at Closed Doors Open Windows, it’s because I’ve been too LOUD everywhere else. Check out the latest and greatest that has been keeping me typing up a storm elsewhere!


1) Road Trip Adventures

I’ve been blogging a series, our Colorado Road Trip and climbing Pikes Peak, over at


Here are the first 6 posts in that series where I share an inspirational journey. We joined our friends on a trip that spurred a total-life-transformation to conquer the hike of a lifetime – Summiting the 14,110 ft Pikes Peak:

Training for this hike: Pikes Peak Trip and Training for a 14er

What gear to take: Gearing up: Camping and Climber a 14er

Road Trip kick off, Day 1: The Road to Colorado

Arriving in Colorado, scoping out Pikes Peak: Pikes Peak or Bust

Acclimating to the elevation in the highest US city: 2-mile High Adventures

Climbing Pikes Peak, the 1st day: Climbing a 14er: Pikes Peak Part One


2) Digital Marketing Madness

Okay, I don’t know if I’d call it madness so much as deepening of knowledge, but madness just seemed much edgier. At any rate, the cool work blogging, on relevant digital marketing and WordPress website stuff has been over at our work blog:


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Awesomeness, Bucket List Achievement & Prayers Needed

Life has been, well, let’s just say quite active lately. I’ll leave it at that for now, as I’ve got two awesome updates and 1 big prayer request to share with you, friends. Drumroll please…



The small business, illuvint llc — that my husband and I own and operate — finally launched our company website!!! [ENTER: A blast of giddy fanfare]

As a writer and marketer, I could pontificate on the backstory on the delay of developing our company website. But I respect you, so I’ll be real with you.

Starting a business from the ground up is one of the most exhilarating, all-consuming, insane, fulfilling, occasionally gut-wrenching, transformative experiences I have ever been through.

I know that just sounds like a long list of adjectives, but each of those words truly would contain a long blog post, or hour of coffee talk, in and of themselves. I’m sure I could come up with more, but it’s 5 am and I’m not a morning person.

So we’ll leave the long-windedness for another time, as there are important announcements to, uh, announce.

At any rate, creating our own website took the back burner amidst the hustle of life and business in the Dallas Metroplex. For the curious folks, the Cliff Notes version of hustle includes:

  • Forming a company out of a bit of dirt and spittle
  • Working on client’s websites, web hosting, graphic design, digital marketing, social media, etc….
  • While growing our team of industry leaders to serve our small business, Entrepreneur, start-up, and Non-profit clients.

WHEW, what an adventure it’s been, and how grateful we are to be on it!

Speaking of grateful…let me not forget to note our beloved Summer Intern. We searched and finally found the gift of a wonderful Digital Marketing Intern, Maddie, for the summer months! She was a tremendous help with the development of the site, and the day-to-day blitzing in the home office.

Please, go on over to, and view it in all it’s splendor. Then come on back and leave a comment to let me know what you think!




My bucket list has long included the dream job of “Travel Writer”. Well, I’m going to cross this puppy off the list shortly!

I could not be more thrilled to share that I will be a featured blogger on, to share the rustic and inspirational tale of our upcoming Outdoors Adventure – a Colorado Road Trip and group Pikes Peak Climb!

The Catholic Tourist travel site was founded by the amazing Lisa Hendey (you may know her as wife-Mom-author-speaker-traveler-founder of, Patheos blogger extraordinaire, etc) out of a desire to share new places that she discovers, to offer tips for destinations and simplifying the journey, to meet fellow pilgrims and most especially to share her faith. Since around this time last year, I’ve followed Lisa’s website launch, Social Media (follow on Facebook and Twitter), Rwanda Journal, and adventures  – so I feel incredibly blessed to be a contributor.

Stay tuned for more details here, and get the full scoop at  This will be our very first 14er with a group on a special mission! I can’t wait to share this story and the amazing images that will come from this adventure.



Amidst all of the exciting news, I must admit that my heart is heavy as well. A friend, who is Dad/Husband/Business Owner/Musician and much more, has been battling Cancer and is now on Hospice. I am going this afternoon to serve his wife in the little way that God has provided for me.

If you have spent any amount of time on my blog, you know the story of my Mom’s battle with Cancer and the gift that Hospice was to her and our family. This hits me very close to home. I can only imagine what my friends are facing moment by moment.

Please join me in prayers for this beautiful family. Out of respect for their privacy (I’m not sure what they are sharing with who right now), I’m refraining from posting their names at this point. But don’t worry, God knows who they are. Speaking from experience, the graces that any and all prayers afford are so needed and never more appreciated.


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Happy Anniversary: The Story of Us

Somehow I always managed to avoid the rain when we made our vows three years ago today, even though it did rain that day. We stayed dry as my curls got coiffed in South Padre Island in the morning, as we took photo shoot opportunities during an unexpected delay (story for another day), and even as our Mariachis and Margaritas flowed at the reception.

I say “somehow”, but I know it was my Mom taking care of us on our long-awaited day. And what a glorious day it truly was.

The number three holds a spiritual significance, particularly in the Trinity. Blessed Fulton Sheen wrote the classic, “Three to Get Married.” Here are a few words of wisdom…

“In all human love it must be realized that every man promises a woman, and every woman promises a man that which only God alone can give, namely, perfect happiness. One of the reasons why so many marriages are shipwrecked is because as the young couple leave the altar, they fail to realize that human feelings tire and the enthusiasm of the honeymoon is not the same as the more solid happiness of enduring human love. One of the greatest trials of marriage is the absence of solitude. In the first moments of human love, one does not see the little hidden deformities which later on appear.”
― Fulton J. SheenThree to Get Married

After the wedding, I produced “Our Story” – it’s a compilation of images and music through the years.  Follow us from our childhood, our meeting, courtship, engagement, wedding, honeymoon, and settling in as Newlyweds at home. Enjoy!

The Story of Us: Mike + Lisa from LMartinez on Vimeo.


A Celebration of Fathers

My Mom always said that I was a Daddy’s girl. And I was his Princess.

As a little girl, I can remember our daily routine when he’d get home from work: I’d run to the side door to meet him, outstretch my arms as far as I could across me and pull them behind, while exclaiming, “I love you THIS MUCH!”

I loved the songs Dad would sing, and when I was afraid, his song about the name of Jesus would calm me. He and my Mom instilled a reverence and faith that has formed, guided, and carried me through life.

During the times of struggle, and to this day, my Dad redirects my focus:

“What do you think God is trying to teach you? Because if you don’t get it this time, he’s going to bring you back to this place – only harder.”

A lot a like, there were certainly time when we have collided – particularly as a know-it-all-teenager. Heck, if I had been a boy, my name would’ve even been Richard Jr! But our similarities have also created this comfort of being known and loved deeply, where I can safely be myself.

Also, I’m grateful for the good examples of Fatherhood that I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by: My Grandfather, my Father-in-law, my brothers, Uncles, Priest friends, and friends that have loved and cared for me like a daughter.

In a time where there is such an attack on the family, and so much confusion, I want my heart to remain grateful. Some people I love have lost their Dads, never really knew them, or had Fathers who just aren’t a part of their life. How much the world has suffered on account of the wounds of an absent or hurtful Father. I’m pausing to pray for those right now who need it most, on account of their own situations with their Fathers.

The blessing of a good Father is a treasure. What gifts I’ve been given…









CFR Fort Worth

Sanchez Family


“God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him” (Gn 1:27)


True Leadership

Leadership quotes

A big takeaway from this past Lent was forming better habits. I was focusing on making better decisions with my time and working on being more intentional on where I spend my energy. As I work on growing myself personally and professionally, I’ve been pondering leadership lately.

There are many elements that comprise a great leader – this quote nails the basic essentials. Just because someone is charismatic and can work a crowd like a rib, or is sitting as the head Honcho who calls all the shots, doesn’t necessarily make him or her a leader.

Confidence, courage, compassion, being a good listener, equality in actions – and here’s the biggie: INTEGRITY of his INTENT.

These characteristics flow out from a servant approach to leadership – being attentive to the NEEDS OF OTHERS; however, one thing I’ve learned, even in the Divine order of things, leading at the expense of taking proper care of yourself is not good. I’ve struggled with balance in this area – putting everyones needs and problems before my own. After all, we are called to love as Christ did, which is sacrificial and selfless. It can be challenging to navigate at times.

I’ve found that above all, I need to keep myself first rooted in Christ. God has taken many opportunities to teach hard-headed me about holy order: I need to take care of me and my relationship with Him, and then let the rest flow out from there.

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Lent: A Kindness to Endure the Final Stretch

Jesus Washing Disciples Feet

After nearly 40 days in the desert, journeying deeper into Holy Week, last night I hit the proverbial Lent wall.

Have you ever been there? Or maybe you are there now?

I wonder how Jesus felt in that final stretch? Hmmmm…

After several attempts to keep everything all nicely contained, in the end…yep, I t-a-n-k-e-d. Let me be clear, we’re certainly not talking anything earth-shattering here, but sometimes it feels like there’s a wall, and I smack up against it. AGAIN. And again…and, well, you know the drill.

When my resistance is low, it’s obviously a lot quicker process. The weariness from this Lenten trekking in the desert, and the thirst from “water deprivation”, can sometimes make pebbles seem like boulders.

White flag raised. Stick a fork in me. Insert another cliche of your choice here, but basically last night:

“I’m good, Lord. Yep, I’m done.”

While in my mind I sometimes entertain delusions of being Superwoman, in that moment I was completely aware of my humanness. I grabbed my bible, my journal, my keys, and my purse. I told my husband I needed to get out for bit as I placed a sandwich near him.

As I drove to the nearest chapel, it all started to fumble out. Those moments between me and God, well, I’m just glad he’s God…

It took awhile for me to even get out of my car to enter the Chapel. As I walked up to the glass doors, I saw two women were kneeling in Adoration. There’s no code on the door, and I wasn’t exactly sure when Adoration ended (it’s not a Perpetual Adoration Chapel), so I pulled on the locked door a couple of times.

A woman, probably around my age, got up to come to the door. As she did, she looked at me and softly said, “We’re about to repose Him for the night, but you can stay a few minutes until we do.”

A few minutes seemed like a complete treasure. 

Grateful, I knelt in the back. Knowing it’s Holy Week, I wanted to leave everything there. With many intentions for suffering friends and family too, I wanted to put them in good hands. Hopefully, the whole process would allow my heart to be more open for the celebration of the Triduum.

The other woman in the Chapel left after a few moments. As I continued to spend my moments with Him, the young woman approached me. Oh man, wipe my eyes…

“If you’d like to stay, I can call my husband and ask him if I can stay longer.”

It was so kind, I stumbled a bit, “Oh no, that’s OK. I don’t want to keep you…”

“Oh no,” she responded, “You wouldn’t be keeping me. Let me go call my husband…”

What an unexpected blessing. She was gone for a bit, and when she came back, she asked if I had a phone since her’s was dead and Father’s was locked up.

She was determined, so I handed her my phone. In the meantime, I continued to spend more moments with the Lord.

After they spoke a few minutes, she returned with the news that she had to go home. I assured her that I was glad for the extra time I already got, and I certainly understood.

She then asked me to join her in singing “Tantum Ergo” (which I needed to practice, by the way, for the Holy Thursday Liturgy. Score!)

We knelt and sang together. It was simple. Pure. Sweet.

As we briefly chatted while walking out to our cars, we quickly discovered who we knew in common. Indeed, it is a small Catholic world. She promised to pray for one of our special intentions.

Her kindness to me, without barely knowing my name, lifted me up. In some ways, it felt almost like the footwashing….

Spending time with the Lord — just being — returned some of my perspective: These things are really just pebbles, not boulders. After all my vocation is LOVE (a la St. Therese of Lisieux).


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