November 7, 2013

A Few Moments with Francis

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To be honest it is hard to know where to begin this story.  I feel like the important details are not so much how my husband and I got to shake Pope Francis’ hand (although having a Pope Hand is pretty awesome), but more so the lesson the Holy Father taught us in brief moments we shared with him.   
While it might look like I’m blocking my husband from shaking the pope’s hand,
this is actually my husband placing the Holy Father’s hand into mine 🙂

My husband and I were married on October 5th in my hometown of Memphis, TN.  It sounds cliché to say this, but it really was the happiest day of my life.   After 3 years of working with engaged couples at my parish and teaching the Theology of the Body, it was wonderful to enter into the Sacrament of Marriage with my best friend, surrounded by our family and friends.  God is so good!  

Before we were even engaged, Michael and I knew that we would be going to Rome in October for our last Graduate Theology course.   Rome itself is an overwhelming experience.  Standing in basilicas that were built more than a thousand years before our country was founded gave me a deeper appreciation for our faith.  

From the very top of St. Peter’s Basilica

One of my favorite places was St. Peter’s Basilica.   The moment we stepped into the building it felt like home.  The artwork was breathtaking, and the architecture impressive; but what made that basilica feel like I was standing in my home parish was the realization that this is where the foundations of our Catholic faith were laid.  It gave a whole new meaning to “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).  

On October 16th my husband and I attended the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square.  We were able to obtain Sposi Novelli  (Newlywed) tickets, which meant that we were invited to wear our wedding attire to the audience and sit in a special section that was a little bit closer to the Holy Father.  
Our seats were surrounded by barricades and we were several rows back in our section, so we assumed that we might get to see the Pope from 100 feet away, or if we were really lucky he might come down our side of the barricade to wave hello.  No matter what happened we were grateful for this experience.  
After the Holy Father’s address, the Vatican security guards instructed us to file out of the section.  I assumed that meant everything was over now and it was time to go home.  And then we realized they are taking us to Pope Francis!  They looked at each couple, making sure the men had their jackets buttoned up appropriately, and that the women had the proper attire.  It was one of those moments where we could not help but see how God placed us in the right place, at the right time, and before we knew it we were standing at the center of the platform waiting for the Holy Father to come and greet us.  
It is hard to put into words the thoughts and emotions we experienced when we saw the Successor of Peter standing right in front of us.   
Handing Pope Francis a prayer card from our wedding
As the Holy Father shook Michael’s hand I said (in Spanish) “Holy Father, we are from the United States.  We are praying for you.”  Pope Francis shook my hand, and then Michael handed him a holy card that we had given to our wedding guests which has a picture of the Divine Mercy.  I told the Holy Father, “This is a gift from our wedding.  We were married on October 5th, the feast of St. Faustina.”  Pope Francis looked at both sides and smiled, and then he made his way to the next couple in line.  Michael and I stood there for a moment a bit awestruck at what had just happened. 
There’s one thing that struck me more than anything else about our brief moment with the Holy Father: He knows the gift of presence.  
When I think about our wedding reception and brief moments I was able to spend personally greeting our guests, I have to admit that I probably was not as focused on each person as I should have been.  Sometimes all I could do is blurt out a quick “Thanks for coming!  It’s great to see you!” before running back to the floor for another favorite song. 
 
And then I think about our moment with Pope Francis.  The Pope had to have greeted hundreds of people before he came to us.  He wasn’t just shaking hands and kissing babies because of some kind of obligatory Papal Duty; rather, he greeted each person, he looked at each one of us like a father lovingly looks at his children.    Even though he didn’t say a word, he listened to us.  He looked at us.  He smiled at us.  In that moment he was present to each person, sharing the love and joy of Christ even if it was only with a smile.  
Looking back at the pictures that were taken of us with Pope Francis it is still hard to believe that we were able to experience something so special.  The Holy Father gave us just a few seconds of his time, but he taught us that sharing the joy of our faith can be as simple as being joyful and fully present to each person we encounter.  That is probably one of the best gifts that we could ever receive as we begin our life as a married couple.   

Lord teach us how to be present to every person we encounter, and teach us how to be see the gift of each and every person we meet. 

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*

November 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes #2: Wedding & A Pope Hand

I’m a MRS. now! Here are 7 Quick Takes about the last month of wedding, honeymoon, and the start of married life 🙂

Two Become One

Michael and I got married on October 5th in Memphis, TN. Michael’s best friend celebrated the Mass, my Deacon Daddy witnessed our vows, and we were surrounded by family friends. As cliche as it sounds, our wedding day was the happiest day of my life.

Dancing Queen

I forget just how much I love dancing until it is time for a wedding reception… And ours was so much fun!! Our Father-Daughter dance was EPIC (yes that is an appropriate use of the word)!!  Imagine Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and then it is suddenly interrupted by “Jump on It”.  Kudos to Mom for providing our light up glasses.  (If I can get a video of the dance up here I will… too fun not to share!)
You brought WHO on your honeymoon?
Before we were even engaged we knew that we would be going to Rome in October for our last Graduate Theology class.  We were able to invite guests to come with us on this trip, so we planned on bringing my parents and one of Michael’s younger sisters.  We didn’t want to uninvite anyone after this trip became our honeymoon because… it’s ROME!  How often would we get to be with family in Roma??  Plus, this happened….
The Pope Hand
Meeting Pope Francis at the October 16th Wednesday Audience
I can’t even begin to express what a gift this moment was.  I need to just dedicate an entire post to how this happened.  But to sum it all up: God is good and I’m even more grateful to be bilingual.  
Rome Sweet Home
Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time was one of my favorite moments from our time in Rome.  It wasn’t just the architecture or artwork that left me speechless (although those are breathtaking!); it was the feeling that I was home.  The history and significance of where we were standing just sort of hit me all at once, and it brought a whole new meaning to “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”  
Right Place.  Right Time.


On our first day in Rome, Michael and I took a walk with my parents to the Farmacia.  We’re almost home when all of a sudden Michael sees one of his friends from college!  His friend is a seminarian at the North American College, and asked if we would like tickets to the Papal Mass on October 13th when the Pope would be consecrating the world to Our Lady.   Oh yes!  So basically because of a chance encounter with my husband’s friend we were able to go to the Papal Mass and get a tour of the NAC, and I got a chance to meet other friends of my husband’s from his days in seminary.  

Did I mention I met my husband after he left the seminary? 🙂
Mawwage.

After almost 3 years of working with engaged couples, teaching Theology of the Body, and promoting things like NFP, I finally got to step into Sacrament of Marriage with my best friend.  I love my husband, and I am so excited to see where God leads us.  God is so good.  
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

September 25, 2013

Confessions of a Bride to Be

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Beautiful.  

That’s a word that’s been bugging me a lot these last few weeks.

So many magazine articles and wedding websites talk about being a beautiful bride.  There’s all sorts of exercise, diet, and beauty regimens out there explaining how to “look your best for the big day!”

The words “beautiful” and “bride” just seem to go together… but for some reason I feel like I’m in a battle for beauty.

Sure, I have the dress… I have the hair extensions, purchased the over priced teeth whitening kit, I’ve been trying to lay off the gummie bears, taken up walking in the mornings with my friend Noelle, and tried to continue Turbo Fire workouts.  Still, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t feel like I’m going to be the bride I’m “supposed” to be.

But what does this mean exactly?
Am I worried that the zipper won’t zip all the way?  Sure.
Am I worried my hair and makeup won’t turn out according to plan? Yeah, a little bit.

But I feel like the desire to be a beautiful bride goes a little bit deeper than those things.

As our wedding day gets closer I’ve felt the need to take this to prayer.  And one day as I was driving around I heard this song for the first time.  It’s the chorus that caught my attention:

Would you let me see beneath your beautiful?
Would you let me see beneath your perfect?
Take it off now girl, take it off now girl, I wanna see inside.
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful, tonight?

While the song might be talking about something totally unrelated to my situation, I really felt like God’s been putting something similar on my heart:

Would you let me see beneath your desire for beauty?
Would you let me into this desire to be perfect?
Cast off what you think you’re supposed to be, and let me enter into your heart.
Let me make you beautiful.  

I’ve listened to this song over and over again, and I still feel God nudging my heart (because let’s face it I am both a little stubborn and a little slow.).

The desire for beauty is a good thing.  But what I’m slowly starting to realize is that my desire isn’t just to look great in my dress, have fabulous hair, flawless makeup, and the glow of a new bride (while all of those things would be nice…), what I really want is to be the woman God created me to be.

I don’t want to just be beautiful for a day… I want to have a beautiful heart.  I want to be the wife and mother God created me to be.  I want to learn gentleness, humility, gracefulness, kindness, and strength.

Come to think of it, I’d like to be a lot like her:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.- Song of Songs 4:7


Our wedding is just 10 days away and I know that no matter what it will be a beautiful and holy celebration.  I also know that the Sacrament of Marriage is just one of the ways God is helping me to become the woman I’m supposed to be.  But the journey doesn’t end there.

The quest for beauty is a quest for God Himself… God who is True, Good, and Beautiful.  

How wonderful would it be if I worried about the state of my soul as much as I worry about the beauty of my wedding day?

“Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.”- 1 Peter 3: 3-4

Lord would You come into my desire for beauty and show me how this desire will lead me closer to You?  Help me to let go of what I think I’m supposed to be, and help me to allow You to make me who I was created to be.

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*


September 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes, #1: Ketchup!

 My very first “7 Quick Takes!”. My favorite bloggers do this on a regular basis (namely, Conversion Diary, 4Life4Life, Captive the Heart, and NFPandMe), so I thought I might give it a go. 🙂  I’ll use this an an opportunity to catch up on the past few months of silence.

So I haven’t blogged all summer long… but I promise I have a good excuse! I spent most of the summer preparing and then taking my Comprehensive Exam for my MA Theology program.  One of the benefits to being in the same Graduate Program as my fiance is that we can procrastinate work together and encourage one another. The test was Pass/Fail so the pressure was on.  I thought it would be the end of me…. No really.   I’m pretty sure I win in the melt down department, but WE PASSED!  I may have overdosed on coffee and functioned on little to no sleep, but it was all worth it in the end.  Now we just have to finish our Thesis (50 pages to go!) and then the degree is ours!!

There’s nothing like finding a hilarious YouTube video to entertain oneself and avoid the pains of studying and writing papers.  What’s better is finding out that that hilarious video is part of a series of hilarious videos that can occupy your time for several hours at a time.  This one has been especially entertaining:

 

 Thankfully Michael’s toes don’t point up… so we’re good.

My trip to Memphis in August went really well.  I met with some vendors, got to see wedding hair, makeup, and dress all put together… which basically = stuff’s bout to get real.  One of the highlights from the trip was my Memphis Bridal Shower hosted by my amazing and wonderful Maid of Honor.  It’s awesome to see friends from high school again!

Gina, Me, Stacy, Matt, Katey and Erica (MOH)

One of my “major” preparations for the wedding was making the decision to get extensions.  I went from a bob to 16 inches of “Brazilian” hair.  After a month of having it in I think I’m finally getting used to it, but seeing people’s reactions has been super entertaining.  My favorite so far has been the people who thought I just kept my hair pinned back all the time.  If only it were that easy!

I’ve recently been introduced to The Doctor:

We’re on Season 2.  Me gusta.  🙂

Michael and I have been reading 33 Days to Morning Glory as part of our final preparation for our wedding day.  The 33rd day is the day of our wedding and following the Nuptial Mass we will consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary.  This is my second time to go through the book and it is absolutely wonderful.  The Blessed Mother has been a very special part of our courtship, and it has been important to have her as a constant intercessor.  We can never love her more than Jesus does 🙂

I’m getting married in 15 days!!!!!  Who knew that 3 years of waiting could come down to just 2 short weeks.  We’re leaving for the first part of our trip next Thursday, getting to Memphis around October 1, and October 5th is the big day!  You’ll definitely be hearing more about this later… God willing 🙂

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
June 25, 2013

Life Out of the Boat

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Matthew 14:22-33 is my all time favorite bible story.  Hands down it is THE story that God leads me back to over and over again to challenge me to trust Him with everything… even the scariest and most overwhelming of details.  

This of course is the story of Jesus walking on water.  We’ve all heard the story at least once in our lives… How the disciples were in a storm, they get scared, Jesus shows up and calls Peter out of the boat, Peter gets out…walks…sinks… and Jesus comes to the rescue.  Ta daaa the Gospel of the Lord.

But it’s the details of this story that keep grabbing my attention.

The disciples are in their boat “being tossed about by the waves for the wind was against it.”  Needless to say, things were probably a little tense on deck.  And then to add to the situation they think they see a ghost walking towards them on the sea.  But then Scripture tells us that “At once Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I; -do not be afraid'” (Mt 14:27).  Peter speaks up “Lord if it is you command me to come to you on the water.”  And Jesus says “Come.”  

Imagine the intensity of that moment for Peter.  The wind and waves are blowing like crazy, the disciples are trying to get everything under control so the boat doesn’t sink, there may or may not be a ghost out on the water, and Peter decides that this is a really good moment to trust Christ with his life.  

And he does.

Peter takes a step, another step, but then something happens.  He loses eye contact.  Scripture says that “when Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord save me!'”  And notice that Jesus doesn’t just let Peter sink or laugh and allow Peter to drown.  It says that “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’  And after they got into the boat, the wind died down.”  

We all have moments where we lose that eye contact with Christ.  We focus so much on the wind and waves of life that we forget who is out there walking this journey with us.  We get distracted by to do lists, deadlines, problems, sickness, etc… and just life period… and we start to focus more on those details than on Christ.  And it is when we start to lose eye contact that  life can start to feel the most overwhelming.  But Christ doesn’t abandon us. While it might not feel like he immediately stretches out his hand, he does come to our aid in the midst of distress and reminds us of his overwhelming love.    
Over the past several years, I’ve come to realize that life outside of the boat is where we are called to live as Christians.  Christ invites us to step outside of our comfort zones and into an adventure of trust and confidence in his mercy and love.  

But Christ doesn’t just show up when life is perfectly calm, the sea is still, and there’s a rainbow of happiness of peace in the background.  In fact, there are times when God chooses some of the most intense moments to ask us to trust him.  Just like the disciples were trying to get control of their boat and their fear, Christ sometimes uses the times when the wind and waves of our daily lives to invite us to trust him even more.  

This isn’t always easy.  I know that there are times when I would much rather stay curled up in a corner and just hang on for the bumpy ride.  Sometimes just looking over the edge of the boat is enough to make me think “No thanks God, I’ll pass.”  Or I focus so much on the craziness happening that I forget that Christ is inviting me to go out beyond what I think I can do for myself and allow him to do the impossible.  

To be honest, I’m dealing with a lot of “wind and waves” myself right now.  I’m preparing to take my comprehensive exam for my Masters degree, trying to accomplish several different projects at work, working on a thesis, and wedding planning all at the same time.  Needless to say, eye contact with Christ has been a bit of a struggle lately.  But in the middle of all of this I realize that it is in these busy/hectic times that God can show off the most.  If I’m willing to make Christ the focus and take just one step, one moment at a time, then it will be that much easier get through the rest of the year and beyond.  

And even after the wedding and graduation are over with, I know that the “out of the boat” adventures will continue.  But that’s the beautiful thing about the Christian’s walk with Christ… there’s never a dull moment.  While there are times when Christ asks us to be at peace with him in the boat (see Matthew 8:23-27), there are many other times when Christ calls us by name to a daring adventure out on the waves.  

Question is, are we willing to take that first step and trust him with everything?  

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” 
Philippians 4:13