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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Unexpected Faith-Sharing in the Food Court


Image credit: St. Augustine’s Neutral Bay

It all started with an old coffee grinder that broke during the Saturday morning routine. After checking off the list a long-standing business task, the Hubby and I headed over to the Galleria to catch a sale.

At Macy’s we did a bit more shopping damage than Mike had planned (ok, so maybe I had a couple of things in mind that were all well-deserved tax return investments). Once we secured our new coffee grinder and sweetly discounted King-sized bedding purchases, we were well past the point of digesting the morning whole-grained PB&J English muffin. So I went ahead to scout out the “food court” options as Mike dropped off our large bags back at the car.

I was an easy target — not wanting to get greased or carbed down — the Japanese sample man lured me in with his tooth-picked taste of chicken teriyaki and a $1.00 off coupon. Shaky, Mike opted for the buffet-style food line. As I waited for my Bento box, he went to find us a place to sit amidst the crowded small outdoor seating area.

Somehow I walked past him as he typed away on his iPad and I scanned the tables for him. I circled back and saw him sitting at the other end of a table with an African-American woman eating Orange Chicken out of a to-go styrofoam box.

I sat down, we said a blessing over the food, and began eating. I think I started the conversation with her by making some food-related comment. I quickly gathered that our nearby table mate was open to conversing with strangers. As we continued to eat, I felt that familiar “Holy-Spirit tug” to speak more with her. We easily fell deeper into a conversation to discuss occupations, different cultures, where we were from, and the like.

A teacher originally from Chicago, our new friend whom I’ll call Sheila, shared that she had been recruited a number of years ago to come down to teach in Texas. It’s always interesting to talk to another Mid-Western transplant about their experiences in DFW area. Soon, we began to speak about relationships, and she began to open up a bit about the man she was dating.

Since Mike and I had a pretty quick eHarmony romance – including courtship, engagement, and marriage within about 15-months – it always seems to be an intriguing tale to people who date for many years. As Sheila began to share bits and pieces about her relationship with her boyfriend, it became clear that as woman in her mid-40’s that never had been married and still wanted children, her patience with this 5-year romance was waning.

As we shared our own story, and allowed her to also share hers, her own hang-ups in the relationship began to surface. (H/T: Mental Health degree.)

Sheila grew up with a Bible-based Baptist kind of background, while her boyfriend was Catholic – and just so “happened” to attend St. Ann’s (our Parish!). She really didn’t have much experience with Catholicism, didn’t understand it; yet she wasn’t bashing it either – even in her observations that we were more “quiet” as Mike jokingly pointed over to me as the obviously-not-case-in-point.

As this conversation started to come to a crux, my Hubs interjects, “Let me ask you a question.”

This is always my favorite part of the conversation: When the ultra observant-prayerful-introvert goes in for the kill.

“Do you pray together?”

Sheila began to travel down a long winding path with lots of information about spiritual conversations based on movies and such. She even shared a beautiful dream that her boyfriend had of receiving a blessing to marry her from his deceased Mother. But the bottom was that:

  • They really didn’t pray together
  • Neither of them had ever been to worship in the other’s Church
  • She was actually quite surprised by his Catholicism

Two spiritual people are 5-years into a relationship, and have never worshipped together? WOW.

So I suggested that she ask him to come to her Church. And we rolled out the red carpet and invited her to come to our Parish.

Beyond that, there were a number of factors causing some forms of doubt. Thankfully all cited hang-ups were based on an internal struggles to overcome – nothing she said revealed major red flags of being treated her badly or disagreement on the relationship must-haves.

As we began to wind down our probably half-hour conversation, a comment from Sheila blessed me greatly.

“Thank you. This has increased my faith.”

We all recognized it at that moment: Something supernatural happened over a freakin’ Bento box at the Galleria. Honestly, our faith was increased as well, just by being ready to share the reason for the hope that we have in Christ and allowing her to do the same. #mindblown

Have you ever had a deep conversation with someone that you just met that increased your faith? Please share your story in the comments!

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