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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, illuvint.com!

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, www.fourteenthousandonehundredten.com, and at CatholicTourist.com 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 wickednot.com, 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!

Love,

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 closeddoorsopenwindows.wordpress.com

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Christmas Card & 2013 Year in Review

Taking this 5th day of Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family, to share our Christmas letter and card from our family to yours…

2013 Christmas Card

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

If we could only use three words to describe this past year, explore, dream, and discover would be a pretty reliable synopsis. There are times in life where everything lines up to take you in a new direction: Passion to pursue a dream, ripe circumstances, formation through experience, a window of opportunity, solid discernment, a supportive spouse, a willing spirit seeking God’s will, and just enough faith to leap into the great unknown. After this alignment occurred at the end of 2012, in January, Lisa plunged into our entrepreneurial endeavor full-time. Ever since, our noses have been to the grindstone, busy in the process of laying the groundwork for illuvint (e-LOO-vint), our small business.

It’s humbling to see how the trust walk of 2013 has remarkably unfolded. There was no colossal launch filled with fanfare, as it just was not what our CEO (GOD) wanted – but rather a lean and deliberate process of showing up and speaking with the right people at the right times, and taking each of the steps laid out bit-by-bit before us.  We are convinced that if you never want to be bored or complacent again, start your own small business – especially one focused on serving the needs of other start-ups, small businesses, and ministries – those often faced with the challenges of limited resources. At the same time, what an honor to collaborate with some of the most passionate, creative, inventive, and scrappy go-getters we’ve come to know!

Eager to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, we were thrilled when our Lafayette, LA friends, Ann and Julie, came to visit in early February. It was a weekend devoted to brainstorm, share about dreams and small business endeavors, and seek growth and healing. Reunited the following weekend, but in Lafayette this time, Lisa and Julie, co-hosted one helluva Mardi Gras themed Bridal Shower for dear friend, Kelli, as her “Matrii”, or Matron and Maid of Honor.

The end of February brought an exciting business trip: We both went to Anaheim, CA, for the Los Angeles Religious Educators Congress (40,000+ attendees) to manage Social Media, and capture photos/videos of the event for our friend, Curtis Stephan, the singer/songwriter commissioned to write the conference theme-song.  What an incredible event and time to reconnect with, as well as meet, many amazing people involved in various ministries. We even enjoyed a little side trip to beautiful Santa Barbara before we returned home (upper right 2 photos above were taken on the Pier there).

After the Congress, in March, with the help of some trusted, incredibly generous friends, our professional team really started to take shape: A 1st-Class team of web designers/web developers, graphic designers, English + Bi-lingual marketers, copywriters, speaker/blogger folks began assembling. It was phenomenal to begin to discover our network and collaborations, which we are continually seeking more of, but it all began falling into place with very little effort!

At the end of March, Mike got away for a guys weekend and some fishing on the Lake when he hosted a Bachelor Party for Marcelo. A month later, we got to stand up in our 1st wedding together for Kelli & Marcelo, during the lively Festival International weekend in Lafayette. After returning home, Lisa went to Florida to be with her Dad during his Heart procedure. Dad fared well, and is doing better, and Lisa enjoyed a bit of time to also visit with her brother, Jeff, too.

At the end of May, we took a trip down to South Texas to visit Mike’s family.  Mike was honored that our nephew, Dustin, asked him to be his Confirmation Sponsor.  We also took some time to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary a bit early, as well as Rose’s (Mike’s sister) birthday, by renting a condo near the beach on South Padre Island, not far from where our Wedding reception was. There’s nothing like the beach to unwind a bit.

We ventured over to Austin in mid-July. A nice visit with cousins, Thomas & Claudia, we attended the Tech Symposium that Thomas moderated, and saw old college friends, Aaron & Kate.  A long-time dream of Mike’s to live in Austin, we spent time talking with locals, scouting neighborhoods, partaking in the sights, sounds, and flavors, as well as praying about where we’re supposed to be. We’ll see what happens!

At the end of August, Mike went to Costa Mesa, CA on business. When the trip got extended, Lisa joined him, continuing to enjoy the mobile, flexibility of running our own business!

We heard some sweet music and enjoyed the company of a couple of dear old friends in September. Lisa was front and center at the Audrey Assad concert (one of her favorite female artists), debuting her new album.  Fr. Joe O’Connor, our long-time friend + the Priest who married us, visited, and on a whim, shone the light of Christ on us by replacing our burned out fluorescent kitchen lighting with fancy track lighting.  The next day, we saw Mike’s favorite musician, Josh Rouse, in concert. To ice the cake, our Best Man, Tim, drove in and pulled off a killer surprise on Mike when he sat down at our table right before the show. Well played.

Mike was back in California for work in October, which was extended out to 3-weeks. Ouch. Lisa was really grateful for a girls night/sleepover at Kelli’s house when Julie came back to visit during that time!

Omar, our nephew arrived, in mid-November. Never really having traveled outside of Texas, we surprised him with a Thanksgiving Road-trip to Florida! In 8-days, we spanned over 3,000 miles, from New Orleans, to Dad’s in the Villages, to Jeff’s in Hollywood, to the Summer Estates of Henry Ford/Thomas Edison in Ft. Myers, back to Dad’s, stopping in Jackson, MS, and home again on Dec 1st. Whew – what a great whirlwind!

Currently, we are down in South Texas – the Rio Grand Valley – enjoying the holidays with Mike’s family. Undergoing surgery on December 18th (all went well, thank God), it’s been good for Lisa to heal and recover while taking a couple of weeks of downtime all at once.

2013 sure was packed, and we’re so grateful for all the opportunities to explore, dream, and discover! We’re especially thankful for all our family and friends – this of course includes our clients and illuvint team members.  Our lives are blessed and better because of your love, support, prayer, and belief in us!!

Our goal is to have our company website up for January 1st, www.illuvint.com. All visitors, feedback, and sharing is appreciated!

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2011 Year in Review – Part 1

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Henry Ford

I started a tradition quite a while ago of writing a recap of the year before the new one was to begin.  I did start this post before 2012 began, but I just wanted to enjoy visiting with family instead of writing about it.  As I begin this post, we currently are more than halfway on our 2 day drive back home to Dallas from Florida, so with the Cowboy’s game on in the background which is occupying my husband in our hotel room, now’s as good a time as any.

2011 was quite a year!!  It brought both some of the hardest and greatest times in my life.  Here are some of the more memorable moments:

Out of the gate of 2011, in January we had to gather all the courage, strength, and hope that comes through faith. My Mom’s Breast Cancer had come back in her bones with a vengeance. She spent her 64th birthday with her friends and family on January 21st, and then 2 days later departed this world.  She still managed to cross some important things off her “Bucket List” first, including seeing me try on my wedding dress from her hospice bed; and Skyping to see her newborn Grandson, Jacob Richard — Paul & Pilar’s youngest boy — born just a few days before her birthday.

1 of about 7 dresses I tried on before I found the one. Mary Catherine was the Angel who brought the dresses from her Ocala shop that day

In February, before returning to Dallas, Mike surprised me and Dad with a short trip to St. Augustine, Florida.  That’s a special place for me, and I hadn’t been back for many years.  It was a much-needed time away together, and we wanted to pray for all those who had prayed for us during our time of need.  We lit candles and prayed for you all when we visited Our Lady of La Leche at the Shrine, and walked the Sacred Acre where the 1st Mass was celebrated in the US.

A short trip to St. Augustine, Florida with 2 of my favorite fellas. Trying to start getting our heads out of the fog...

Meeting my newest nephew, Jacob Richard, upon our return to Dallas. Holding him was what my heart needed...

Then it was back to Dallas, commencing the journey to find a new “normal.” Of course, wedding plans began immediately in high gear, to plan it in just 5 months down where Mike grew up in San Benito, TX and South Padre Island.  I do not recommend grieving and destination wedding planning, but it’s just how things ended up… And so we rely on God’s grace, and those He’s given us to do what we need to.

I never even got thank you notes out to all the people who sent flowers, Mass cards, gifts, Edible Fruit displays, sympathy cards, books, and reached out in so many ways.  So please know that everything meant so much to us, and we are grateful for your friendship, love, prayers and support – truly.

In March, Mike’s Mom came to Dallas and spent Spring break with us.  We had fun crafting and she was our first passenger in the new vehicle that we bought.  God blessed us with a fantastic deal on fully loaded red Mercury Mariner, with less than 5,000 miles on it.  As hard as it was for Mike to let go of Ol’ Blue, this little crossover has served us well.

Our new Mercury Mariner - we love "Ruby"!

Mike's Mom with baby, Jacob. Can you tell she is ready for more little ones??

In April we went to Hollywood, Florida. I was Alyssa’s, my niece, Sponsor for her Confirmation.  We had a great visit with family, and are so proud of the beautiful young lady that Alyssa has become, inside and out.

Cracking up with my niece Alyssa at her Confirmation Party

On the last day of Spring Blooms at the Dallas Arboretum, we had our Engagement photos taken.  Our friends John Wehlage, and his wife Julie, did an amazing job on both our Engagement Photos and my Bridal Portraits. More photos (includes the events surrounding our wedding) are posted on our wedding site blog, the Martinez Lounge so I’ll only post a couple here:

Mike + Lisa - Engagement Photos at the Dallas Arboretum during Spring Blooms

Bridal Portraits & Engagement photos done by John Wehlage. Taken at St. Ann's Catholic Church, Holy Saturday, 2011

Wow, April was really busy.  We took a jam-packed wedding planning trip down to South Padre Island.  It felt like a contest – how many vendors can we book in one weekend? HA! The last weekend of the month we headed to Eunice, Louisiana where I used to live and work.  Our friends hosted a beautiful engagement Mass of Thanksgiving and Party, Cajun style, at Walnut Street’s Atrium of the dear Miller family — where I served at many events for others.  Again, more stories and photos are all on our Martinez Lounge site.

Celebrating with my Cajun Family - Cajun dancing with Garrett

Last year it was May Showers, Bridal Showers that is. A beautiful shower was hosted on Mother’s Day (aren’t my friends amazing??) by friends & CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) sisters. The other was graciously hosted by St. Ann’s choir members after a Wednesday night practice. My Bachelorette Party was hosted by my Maid of Honor, Kelli, at my friend’s, Cynthia, home in Coppell. We also attended Engaged encounter, along with our NFP classes.  My oldest nephew, Daniel, graduated from High School. My Dad came to stay with us before the wedding, and so we began the big move of Mike into the Condo – and it was the three of us in close quarters until the wedding. Wedding planning pretty much consumed all the other moments – LOL.  Lots of photos of those great moments on our blog. I’ll leave you with a few.

Bridal Shower with friends & CRHP Sisters

Bachelorette Party - Hostesses, Cynthia & Kelli

My nephew, Daniel, graduated from High School.

That’s the first part of 2011.  More to come friends, but sleep most come first!

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2009 Christmas Missive

“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness, he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.”

– Venerable John Paul II

2009, oh what a year it has been!  As has become my custom, I am taking my Christmas holiday as an opportunity to both reflect and write on what has annually transpired in an effort to catch up with y’all.  Pardon the electronic format, dear ones, but it holds within it the same love as my paper copies tucked away in Christmas cards that I’d love to send if I weren’t attempting to be so resourceful!  Always looking on the bright side, the benefit is that this way you can also watch my year – courtesy of my 2009 picture slideshow too!

Transitions began early this year, as I rang in the New Year with a promotion at the hotel to Catering Sales Manager.  What a time to learn and grow it was, all the while hoping that the bumps eventually would smooth out just like the learning curve.  Yet as the opening quote so beautifully stated, Jesus would not allow me to settle.  Using situations to move me to where I now need to be, by mid-July I had lost my job.  Recognizing my lack of fulfillment and knowing that many of gifts and talents weren’t being utilized – but not quite poised to break out yet – I have experienced a great freedom through this experience.  I knew that the time had come:  The time for me to stop pursuing other people’s dreams and start chasing down my own.

In the meantime, the spare room in my Condo was getting great mileage in the beginning of the year between friends and family.  Easter brought not only the Resurrection, but also the visit of not only my parents but also much anticipated one of my brother’s family – Jeff, Annette, Alyssa, Jon, and Annalyse.  From visiting the Stockyards, riding the Go-Carts at Speed Zone, painting Easter Eggs on my balcony and teaching them to “pock” eggs after the Easter Egg Hunt, to a 4-month early 40th Surprise Party for Jeff…well, the time together was a great blessing and the memories now are filed under “Things I Cherish”.

I was blessed to be able to make some visits of my own this year as well.  From quick jaunts to the Houston area for a conference or a weekend get-away with my best friend, to full-out excursions, I’m always up for new adventures!  My 1st big trip occurred over the 4th of July holiday, with the ambitious itinerary to visit 4 old friends in 5 days in Washington State and Vancouver, BC areas that looked like this:

  • 1st stop – the splendiferous Saratsis family on the Air Force Base in Tacoma
  • 2nd stop – the magnanimous Manni family in Oak Harbor
  • 3rd stop – dear old friend Sarah of the clan Roberts from my hometown of Dearborn now in Vancouver, BC
  • 4th and final stop – the Italian flower Nausica and her new hubby, Brian, in Seattle

The time went quickly but was ever so well spent reconnecting with old friends, many with new additions to their family’s that I had never had the chance to meet.

I was blessed by another opportunity to reconnect with another set of dear old friends when I attended “Homecoming” at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  A celebration of friendships and faith, I can’t believe it already was time for our 10-year College reunion!

Some of my travels have taken on a business nature as well.  Two weeks after I got the axe, I was extended an all expense paid road trip to my 2nd home in Louisiana.  What was originally intended as a weekend get-away spent with friends soon became a 10-day business related trip.  While stopping by to visit my dear friends, Myrna & Garrett, who are my former employers – Walnut Street – we discovered once again that we both had needs that we could assist each other with.  Just like old times, I lent some help in the office a couple of days after which Myrna took me to their new 2nd location, a shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Thus began the contract work that paved the way for the other opportunities that have kept me busy since.  With God as my Boss, I’ve been serving in various capacities from Marketing Consulting, Project Management and Copywriting – writing web content and Press Releases.  I’ve completed content for 2 out of 3 of the sites so far, and the other will soon be live as well.

The trip to Louisiana also began a time of discernment with my best friend, Kelli Simon.  Through much prayer, we felt God calling her to live with me in Dallas.  The doors all opened, and at the end of September my home became our home.  I’m so blessed to have my “soul sister” living and praying along side me at this time in our lives.  We are currently in the process of discerning laying the foundation of a new ministry organization as well, so please pray for our efforts with “Illumine the Nations”.  We have felt God calling us to help foster greater unity in Evangelistic outreach efforts in the Catholic Church – by building a network to connect, inform, exchange, and assist efforts internationally.  The Lord has a plan, and we are just trying to be in it!

In November, I was also invited to travel to NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) in Kansas City, MO to join over 21,000 others in participating in the largest youth rally in the nation.  Working with the Catholic musician, Curtis Stephan, and the band to complete his website – I captured photos and video clips during their Praise & Worship session.  My first attempt at amateur video editing can be viewed on the website above (link to YouTube on main page).

I currently am enjoying my 2nd big trip, a 2-week holiday in Florida spending time with my parents and Jeff’s family.  My longest chunk of time in the Sunshine state, it seemed appropriate to take advantage of the lack of filing vacation requests!

Time out of a traditional office setting has bore a lot of fruit this year, both personally and professionally.  I’ve been building my repertoire, especially concerning my writing – a skill that I’ve felt a calling to focus on once again.  A friend and I have also done a “Garage Band” recording of a song I wrote that she’s been working on with me, based on my favorite prayer – “Anima Christi”.  I’ve also been applying for freelance writing work, and we shall see what 2010 has in store for me.  There are already prospects on the horizon, and I am excited to prayerfully continue chasing down my dreams.  Affording me the time to foster personal and spiritual growth, I have even pursued inner healing sessions with some Prayer Warriors at my Church.

The Lord has reminded me this year, “Be still, slow down, don’t loose your vision…no excuses now!”  The Lord has certainly shown me once again that he is my Provider and that His plan is much bigger for me if I will trust Him to lead me through it.  I pray for the journey that you are on as well.  I love and miss y’all, especially at this time of the year.  Merry Christmas and let’s all have a New Year abundant in blessings!

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