Home Is Where You Make It

 

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When we moved into this apartment, James was five months. He was born into our first apartment, a two-bedroom garden apartment that was built in the 50’s, right outside of Del Ray Alexandria. It had great character and space, but it lacked in a number of ways. However, it was very special as it was the home where we began our family.

A year ago around this exact week, we were packing up and getting ready to leave that home to move into a new one – this one. And it was here that James learned how to sit up, eat solids, crawl, swim (not really, but he “swam” with his daddy a handful of times!), and eventually walk. It was in this humble one-bedroom high rise apartment that our family continued to grow in. It was the home we took Lucy home to just three months ago. What the last place lacked, this one made up for in just about everything, except that we lost a room (and till this day I still think it was a worth it). But even with a family of four we made it work these last three months. It was a challenge we joyfully took on, and now even both babies are sleeping through the night in the same room! It’s possible! ;)

Moving and the whole packing part of it is such a big undertaking. It’s exhausting. As a family we have moved time and again because there was always something lacking, whether it was simple luxuries such as a laundry/dryer in the unit, a dishwasher, central A/C. We had some very humble beginnings. Exhaustion aside, these last few weeks of preparation for this move have been filled with so much reminiscing and reflection. In a way I’m sad that we are already leaving; we’ve come to really enjoy making this place our home. It wasn’t in our initial plan that we would leave this soon, but it wasn’t in our initial plan that we would get pregnant again either. In life, you can plan all you want and picture your life to look a certain way. But when your whole life is a total surrender to what God has planned, you adjust accordingly, and eventually you come to discover how much better life is because of that freeing surrender to God and His perfect plan.

Each place gave us what we needed at the time.  Our first home was perfect for us starting out, and this place was much better in providing for our growing needs as a growing family. Thursday I’ll be moving back into my parents’ house, the house I was born into and grew up in until I got married, with my own family as we wait our house to get built. That house will always be home to me, and I feel very fortunate that later this year I, alongside my husband, will be able to raise our own family in a house of our own too.

Home for us might have looked different these past two years, but each placed lived in was always home because we made it home. As someone whose very occupation is helping in a small way build [sustainable] buildings, home has very little to do with the building; it’s about those who occupy it.

So here’s to “home,” wherever we were, we are and will be. Celebrate it. Be grateful for it. I know I am.

 

 

This House You’re Building, an introduction

Processed with VSCO with s2 presetA week from today we are moving out of our apartment. While I should have probably packed tonight, the inspiration to write hit me and it hasn’t left since. I’m thankful for that because for many years now I have always found writing to be a great creative outlet, most especially when I find moments in my life worth sharing as a way to paint how God has been unveiling Himself to me.

After becoming a mom twice, it was no surprise to me that I would not be able to do some of the stuff I had done before as often as I’d like to. Tonight I was revisiting older posts and updating sub-pages, reading through some of the things I had previously written that were more prevalent in my life then. Some of those things included spending hours in bookstores reading, churches, or museums, going on trips and so on. While I am still able to do those things it just doesn’t quite look the same. Now it looks more like reading board books to the babies or getting started on reading a book of mine only to stop a few minutes later because of a crying baby, or missing/not being able to hear the readings or homilies at Sunday Mass because poopy diapers or meltdowns. ;) For those reasons and more are probably why I enjoy reading what my life was like then and reflecting on how it is now — with the intent of taking a step back to see in panoramic view how God’s plans were made manifest throughout all these years. (I’ll admit, I’m not the proudest of my earliest Xanga posts dating back to my high school years, and archived under “The Glory Road”, but hey, that was a part of the journey, too…)

Now that we are midway through 2017, which is hard for me to believe, one particular goal I would like to add is to write more often. Hopefully by sharing that here it will keep me accountable! Entering deeply into my life’s vocation as wife and mother these past two years have given me the heaviest crosses to bear, but also the greatest joys. Because of this, I desire to write more and share more because any work the Master Artist paints, though it might not look so clear or even pretty initially, is an imminent masterpiece I believe is worth sharing.

For those who are were already readers of my blog, I changed the site title from “Oblatio Sui” to “This House You’re Building.” (For those who are new, welcome!) I don’t know that it’s a permanent thing, but for now at least, I know that in those very words God has been making His presence so especially known to us this year – through the building up of our family, the domestic church, and the literal building of our future house which is set to be completed in the Fall.

On that note, thanks for coming [back] to my little space in the world where I share a piece of my heart and mind. You can expect to read posts on my family, marriage, and perhaps some design ideas, drawings and floor plans of our future home. :)

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Sacred Motherhood

While putting James to sleep today, he kept saying “mom” over and over again. It wasn’t in a nagging way, nor did it become irritating. His voice calling out to me was such a sweet sound. In a simple way it reminded me of his dependence on me, not in just putting him to sleep but in just about everything. It was music to my ears and it only made me want to draw even closer to him, embrace him even tighter.

After he had fallen asleep, the simple thought of calling on the Blessed Mother naturally came to mind. First, I thought, is this how Mama Mary feels when we call to her in prayer, specifically when we pray the “Hail Mary” over and over again when reciting the Holy Rosary? She is our mother, too, so I can only imagine that calling her name also brings about tender feelings for her towards us since we are her children. Second, it brought me to thinking of my consecration to Mary. I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary eight years ago, and since then I promised to become dependent on her in all things—offering my prayers and sacrifices to God through her, confident in her maternal care especially in times of suffering or difficulty. This reminds me of when I was a child myself when I had the confidence that my own mom would always take care of me. Similarly, that’s how it is with our Blessed Mother—it also requires a childlike confidence, even as adults now, to know that she will also take care of our needs and lead us by the hand.

Ever since becoming a mom, I have experienced a different level of closeness to the Blessed Mother. She is the epitome of all mothers and I pray especially throughout this month dedicated to Our Lady, that I, and all mothers everywhere (biological mother, adoptive mothers, godmothers, spiritual mothers), may become more like her and turn to her for inspiration on sacred motherhood.

The Mystery of Parenthood

I’m currently stuck on the couch, literally, because both J + L wanted to continue nap time on mommy.  ❤ Almost four weeks in of this life with two babies under two, and I finally feel like I’m starting to get some kind of method down.

Today is my first full day alone with the babes. And my goal upon waking and Jon leaving for work was to remember to think a step ahead, so for me that meant preparation—prepping for bottle feeding times that ended up taking place simultaneously, prepping lunch so that it could be easily cooked/baked (I ate!! 🙌🏽), prepping all the diaper changing necessities so one change can easily happen after another or so.

However, sometimes crap hits the fan — inconvenience sets in and unforeseen circumstances occur, like for instance: the fire alarm going off this morning after breakfast and you’re alone with both babies on the 13th floor and have to take the stairs down, oh, and you’re four weeks postpartum. Thank God for kind neighbors, and for no serious accidents.)

There were moments today when preparation proved a difference. And then there were moments when I had to stop and think on the spot of what the heck to do, then do it (with so little energy and a whole lot of grace and mental power). And then there are sweet moments (like the one I’m experiencing right now) when you’re reminded of the privilege it is to have tiny souls entrusted to your care.

Parenthood is a mystery. It’s filled with joy, laughter, anxiety, frustration, anger, victory, defeat, impatience, peace, suffering, and joy & peace again. Sometimes you feel empowered and sometimes you feel powerless. It’s such an interestingly phenomenal thing. I’m amazed by my babies and what they’re capable of now and what they will be capable of, and I’m amazed at the strength, patience and willpower I have to keep going, which are things I usually second guess, too. God is so good and finds ways in which I can’t see that renew me and keep me going, determined to do my best and give all I’ve got. Shout out to all the parents out there reading this. You are amazing, whether you know/feel it or not.

Domestic meets Universal

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThis is my second consecutive Holy Week with a newborn, only this year I have a newborn plus an almost 14 month old. Throughout my adult years I have always looked forward to this particular week, the holiest of all weeks, and did everything I could possibly do to enter into it completely. Along with some kind of Lenten devotional for my personal use, I would go to almost all of the events our parish would offer — soup suppers, Stations of the Cross, Lenten reflection talks, just to name a few. Also going to daily Mass and visiting the Blessed Sacrament any time I wanted was easy, and it was uninterrupted, quiet time. As for the Triduum, I would eagerly participate in all of the sacred feasts. I loved visiting the Franciscan Monastery for the burial reenactment and the Easter Vigil (I LOVE the Easter Vigil) and welcoming new members into the Catholic faith. These ways of entering into Holy Week and the Triduum have helped me deeply reflect on what this week and this weekend mean. They always seem to reignite a fire in my heart to wholly love Christ and to further ponder on what His suffering, dying, and rising mean to me, and how my life is transformed by this. Our entire faith depends on the Paschal Mystery.

One of the things I’m continuing the adjust to as a parent of two babies is that I don’t always get to enter into certain aspects of my faith as completely as I have in the past, which is perfectly fine and expected. (It certainly helps to not have high expectations.) I know and accept that I will not be able to go to all the events I have gone to in the past and that is fine. And that goes for many other aspects of my life during this chapter I’m in. This past Palm Sunday while listening to the Gospel reading, one specific line that stayed on my mind all day and throughout this week thus far was “remain here and keep watch with me” — Jesus’ words to his disciples in Gethsemane. I felt as though He was showing me how to still enter into Holy Week even while at home with my family and caring for my babies, that what we will be doing this year might look different from the past but we are still unified with the rest of the universal Church. I remember coming across this sentence, “the domestic church meets the universal church in this way.” It couldn’t be any more true.

So while we might not be able to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Seven Last Words, or even the Easter Vigil, I hope that within our home, we can still reflect internally and with another on what each day of the Triduum could mean to us during this special and crazy time of our life, carrying our crosses with joy (the big crosses, yes, but even the littlest ones like changing diapers or pumping while half awake at 4am or handling two meltdowns simultaneously) and sharing with our children our hope and joy that comes from Christ’s rising, defeating death once and for all. And how that can transform us each day to love Christ more through the sacrificial love we give to each other and our kids.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

I’m not quite sure how to begin this post. My son and husband are both sleeping and I’m in the other room attempting to study for a professional exam I’ll be taking in less than two weeks. However at this point in time (it is well past midnight, now) I’m just not in the mood to study any more and feel so inspired to write. Tonight I can’t blame insomnia or aches or fierce baby kicks for not allowing me to sleep on time. Oops.

In past blog posts I would say I’ve been pretty open about my life – about spiritual growth, setbacks, joys, hardships, and so forth. I’ve always felt that whenever I am inspired to write about my spiritual journey that it be used as a means to glorify the Father, and also to strive to remain a joyful witness of His love, mercy, and faithfulness amid challenges. So here goes putting myself out here tonight in a way that I pray gives Him glory and that I may serve as a joyful witness of His love, mercy, and faithfulness. Also, in two days is the annual March for Life so naturally I’ve been reflecting a whole lot on this and feel called to share some of the challenges I faced earlier in my pregnancy. I’m sad that I can’t go to the march on Friday, but my heart will definitely united with all the pilgrims in attendance through fasting and prayer.

I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant with my second child, a baby girl. She’s coming soon and it’s so hard to believe how far along we are now. Gratefully, this pregnancy hasn’t been too physically demanding considering how James was only born less than a year ago. Similar to my pregnancy with my firstborn, everything was just about the same and right on schedule – heartburn, fatigue, aches, restless legs, etc. I’m so thankful for my husband who has gone above and beyond since last fall, stepping up to the plate as I tried to balance out new roles (new job and new place of youth ministry) and my other commitments – all while trying to ensure that I was prioritizing time with my family at home first. It’s been a tough adjustment and yes, I’m fully aware that’s only going to keep getting adjusted once our girl arrives in 10 weeks or less, or more. (Parenthood: readjusting when you’ve become adjusted.)

While my pregnancy with my daughter has been uneventful in the best way, which I am so grateful for, at the beginning of it I really struggled in fully accepting the reality. I never shared this at first with anyone but my husband. Undoubtedly there was a part of me that was happy when we discovered we were pregnant again, but there were also feelings of fear and shame that would chipped away at my joy. My emotions basically looked like a swing going back and forth – sometimes throughout the day I would be so happy, other times I would be crying at night, feeling anxious about the future and feeling shame. Thoughts I struggled with ranged from – James is only five months, what will people think of us? We’ll totally be judged for being pregnant again so quickly. People will probably think we’re bad at NFP. Can we handle this (in all aspects – mentally, physically, emotionally, financially…)? Why do I feel so embarrassed? Is James going to resent us because he won’t get to be the only child for a longer period of time? As hard as it is to admit, there was even a toxic thought like getting an abortion to avoid all of these so-called conflicts. I still can’t believe that even crossed my mind and at times I still feel ashamed for thinking it. Not that I ever truly considered it, trust me – it was a entirely a moment of weakness Satan used against me because I was scared. The anxiety I experienced was rooted in caring too much of what the world would think. I realized the toxicity of the thoughts racing through my mind and immediately knew that I needed to come to the Lord with all of the weight I was experiencing and lay them all down at His feet. After all, perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

So for a few weeks, those toxic thoughts stole the joy and graces God kept wanting to give me. As time moved on, though, through particular moments in prayer and reflection, I realized three big things that brought overwhelming peace. They were huge turning points.

This summer we attended five Catholic weddings. During the last two (after discovering I was pregnant again), I was reminded of the promises we publicly made before God and the Church before we entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It was: “willingness to accept children…” Bam. Turning point #1.

As you may recall from previous blog posts, or if you attended our wedding Mass, Jonathan and I recited our vows while we both held a Crucifix as a tangible reminder of our vocation to die to self for another, as Christ did for His Bride – the Church. That very Crucifix is hung at the center of our home – to pray before it as a family, but also to be challenged by the promises we made just by a single glance of it in passing. After a family prayer one day and having offered up the struggles I was internally dealing with, I was reminded of that promise and of the words God spoke through Fr. Jack. Jon and I were called and are still called each day to build a house for God in this world, to be witnesses of His light in both the peaks and valleys of marriage. Turning point #2.

In mid-August, during the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I came across a reflection that hit home for me. I’ve come to experience the comfort and closeness of the Blessed Mother in many occasions in my life, and I am not surprised that on one of her great feasts, God ever so gently spoke the words I needed to hear once more, giving me the peace and courage I earnestly continued praying for at that time. The author honed in on the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the Mother of God. The reflection went on about concerns Mary could have had about her unplanned pregnancy, but didn’t. She wasn’t concerned about how it wasn’t the right time, how she was too young, or how she may be shamed by the locals in Nazareth. Those concerns didn’t distress her simply because when she said “yes” she trusted with every single fiber of her being and gave of herself completely to the will of the Father. This was turning point #3, and a clear-as-day reminder of my own challenge to say “yes” to the will of the Father, each and every day, in my own life, my marriage, my family, and here in accepting my pregnancy with total joy. After that third and final significant moment in prayerful reflection, my viewpoint of fear and shame began to dissipate more and more, and in place, was being transformed into hope and courage.

I asked for peace and it was granted. I also asked for guidance and help was sent. God led me where I needed to go and has answered all the questions I initially troubled myself with. He kept calling my name in those difficult moments – so that I could find comfort in Him, to trust His plans, and to especially know how loved I am by Him – as imperfect as I am. As my baby girl continues to grow in my womb, God has given me an opportunity see through His eyes, to strive to love both of my children as He loves, with fierce devotion.

Well before even day one of my second pregnancy, God already knew of my weaknesses, my concerns, and my fears, and yet He still chose me to be the mother of both James and Lucy. It’s extremely humbling and empowering. Each day He continues to give me the grace I need to keep walking forward with hope and courage. I certainly pray that down the road, if given the opportunity again, to accept more children with greater joy without fear, just like our Blessed Mother – ready to mirror the love that God has for them. If again I do fall prey to my own weaknesses or the lifeless whispers of our fallen world, at least I’m certain that our faithful God will lead me back to where I need to be. The only answer I needed to listen to was this: I am loved by my Father, He will take care of my family and lead us. We were called to build a house for God in this world. We are building a house for God in this world.

Please pray for me, for us!

You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness. –Pope Benedict XVI

 

Be Not Afraid

More than five years ago, I began a special journey that would change the course of my life forever. Leading up to my college graduation, with the anticipation of receiving my BA in Interior Design, there were several conversations with my spiritual director and through prayerful discernment that ultimately led me to discover a very specific call from Christ to serve Him and His Bride, the Church, in a full-time role. Before that discovery, I remember writing several entries in my prayer journal about the weight of each option that laid before me, and how each would pan out not just for the immediate future, but even later on — 5, 10 years down the road — financially and career-wise. Begin my interior design or put that on hold? Complete a year of service in Catholic Campus Ministry? These were the big questions in my discernment. I was always the kind of person that would much rather have a clear idea of what the future would look like. But it was during that time when I realized that once I came to the conclusion to do ministry, the future would be entirely in the hands of God and I would just have to trust in His guidance every step of the way, no matter the drawbacks that may be involved.

With His grace and generosity I was able to find joy and delight in my obedience to God’s will, the decisions I made for love of Him. There was great certainty in His faithfulness. I wrote a few weeks before graduating, “amazing blessings will take place in my life in the coming weeks and months. I know the Father will indeed make beautiful things happen. I believe it.” The childlike faith that became my constant prayer all semester long bore fruit. Peace, joy, and complete confidence in God’s will was no longer so far-reaching for me. The fruit of my prayers were all made reach at the time that I needed them, and they are what led me further along my journey.

Fast forward five years later I can say with full confidence that these years post-college have been the best years of my life so far, and it’s entirely because I trusted in God’s providence and faithfulness. It wasn’t easy, it took lots of prayer. I may not be financially where I would like to be, nor am I at a place where I can get any design job I desire, but because I’ve seen how faithful the Lord has been in my life these past five years and well before then, I’m certain that He will continue to provide for every need I have, every need that my family has.

A week from tomorrow will be my last day working as a campus minister at Bishop Ireton. I recently accepted a position that would finally help jump start my interior design career path and I can’t even put into words how excited and nervous (in a good way) I am. Though I will deeply miss doing what I’ve done as a day job (and often times, a night job – let’s be real here haha), I look forward to learning and overcoming new challenges in the design world, and being able to provide more for my family – my domestic church.

One of the mottoes I meditated upon frequently throughout this journey was the first thing St. John Paul II said when he was elected pope and even throughout his papacy; it was his message to be not afraid. Especially in times of uncertainty and fear, Christ told me each time be not afraid. This cry of JP2 to bear in mind Christ’s words helped continue to drive my mission and to not hold on to fear or anxieties about the future, but to truly allow the Lord to work through and in my life each day at a time. I pray that I may continue to mediate on this as I make this career change as well.

Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ!

There is no place for selfishness–and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.

Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you.

Finally, here’s an electronic “toast” for these beautiful five years of full-time ministry at three different places… to all the funny outfits, silly games, meals cooked for Soul Food, amazing encounters with our Lord, core team meetings, pizza (SO MUCH PIZZA), Eucharistic Adorations and Masses, Certificate Trainings, being a minister of music with very little experience, service opportunities, praise and worship concerts, praise and worship concert practices, small groups, Alternative Spring Break trips, WorkCamps, WorkCamp preparation meetings, high school rallies, jr. high bashes, meeting Catholic “celebrities”,  Kairos and Camden Retreats, Papal events, novenas, coffee (LOTS of coffee), 7am meetings with Kairos leaders, school plays, sports games, daily office visits and on and on… here’s to all the seeds that have been planted and all that is to come.

I’m so grateful for all those who were a part of this particular journey, those who walked with me, prayed with and for me, challenged me and encouraged me, and taught and inspired me to love Christ more and more. And of course, I’m so forever grateful for all the young people I had the privilege of serving every single day. My life wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for all of you. Thank you. It may have been years since we last talked, or it may have only been weeks, but I still think of you fondly and pray for you. Again, thank you, and may Christ be your guide and light wherever you are in your life.

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