Choosing Happiness

Choosing Happiness

Let's make a choice together. Happiness. Maybe sometimes it needs to be a choice. So many people around the world wake up every day, sad, lonely, maybe hating their jobs, maybe regretting their choices, maybe feeling like a victim of some injustice. Maybe sometimes happiness needs to be a choice.

Worthy Just Because

“You are significant because you take up space, you are loved because you breathe—not because of what you produce or create, but because you exist.” - Gelly May, author of Girlish Vigor


Truth bombs. I found this one today while I was being super hyper-productive to compensate for yesterday. What happened yesterday? Well. Yesterday, was a very, very bad day. Everything that makes me personally feel like I’m a worthless piece of poo happened. Instead of being awesomely productive (my literal favorite thing to do), I was stuck dealing with my toddlers’ incessant bickering, and cooking them food they hence whined about not liking (I despise cooking), and feeling sad about the dreary weather in Ohio, and being angry that I couldn’t be productive in the things I wanted to be productive in! Oh yes, I was a grumpy mess yesterday. Then the cherry on top of the disaster. My 3 year old point blank told me I was being a “bad mommy.” Oh! The pain!! I completely shut down after that. Told dear Nicholas to take over. And I went out to buy myself a margarita and rethink life and if I was worth anything at all.

I have a glaring programming error (all of us do in some way. What’s yours?). My brain is wired to believe that If I’m not being productive to my standards or creating or doing, doing, doing, then I feel totally worthless. I find value in working and pumping out worthwhile stuff! And while this can be a good thing, it is a double-edged sword that has left some pretty deep wounds in my heart. When circumstances challenge my value (like doing rote tasks day in and day out such as making food, wiping bottoms, doing dishes, being told by my kid I suck as a parent), oh my goodness do I crumble and take the whole world with me!

Then I read that quote on Facebook today. Let this truth bomb explode into the deepest parts of your heart:

“You are significant because you take up space, you are loved because you breathe—not because of what you produce or create, but because you exist.”

When we feel worthless, our hearts shut down. I didn’t want to be a mom after my kid said that (evidently, I still haven’t earned the thick skin I’m sure will come with future years of parenting). I believed that my worth was in my work. In my creativity. In how people I love respond to me. Looking back at yesterday with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, I had allowed circumstances to dictate my value. I had forgotten a very real truth.

No matter what someone says or doesn’t say, or what we do or don’t do, or how we look or don’t look, we are PRICELESS. We are each one of a kind. Made unique. Made to be the best versions of ourselves. Not of your sister or friend or neighbor. You can sit on a rock all day, twiddling your thumbs, and still be loved and valuable. To God, you are His precious son or daughter. More beautiful than the moon and stars. More worth His time and care than the innocent sparrows and perfect flowers in the meadow. I am loved despite my failures. You are loved despite yours.

We have grown up surrounded by conditional love, so it’s hard to accept that love can be given so freely. The culture today demands productivity, work, and effort to be valuable. But in His Kingdom, this is just not so.

If you want to dive deeper into truths like this and begin the process of being FREE TO LOVE YOURSELF as you are, I highly recommend reading GIRLISH VIGOR. (men, you can read it too, but…well, Nick might have better suggestions for you that are more manly - Arrrr *Flexing muscles*)

Check it out on her website:

https://gelly-may-shop.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/girlish-vigor-stripping-off-what-shrinks-and-stepping-into-strength

Sending you all the love and peace and affirmation today, dear reader.

Alina

The Last Stretch: SACRIFICE

Isaiah 53:4-16; 10-12
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.


Good Friday… What a bittersweet day in the history of the world. Christ’s sacrifice to willingly take on our transgressions will forever reverberate until Earth is no more.

What sacrifices are we making that will ripple into the next generation?

I know not all of you reading this are parents (as I write this, I keep thinking of my own parenting journey and dude… what a parallel. Parents, take heart!!), but everyone can relate to family in some way. Our families are where we conceive our world views, our understanding of good and bad, love, faith, and so forth. Some of us have seen beautiful sacrifices our loved ones have made on our behalf. Some have experienced terrible pain from what happens when loved ones choose themselves over their families. We all feel the effects of these decisions and today we are making decisions of our own that will impact our own families.

Everyday we have a choice: Will we sacrifice to make our families, our world, our Church better than when we found it?

I do not suffer well when sleep deprived! Granted, I’m no weakling. I can totally do it if there is a definite end in sight. Like, give me 50 cups of coffee and I’ll push through for the next 48 hours to make that deadline. But bring on the wailing infant where no end is in sight and sleep is a dirty word to the kid, and sacrifice takes on a whole new weight. It can be CRUSHING. It can overwhelm. It can totally kill you.

Until the resurrection of a new day… When that difficult infant becomes an incredible 5-year-old who talks to the neighbor kids about Jesus’s love for them. Christ has proven to us that sacrifices bloom into beautiful legacies. Just as His agony and crushing death took on a victory that we all partake in to this very day thousands of years later.

Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

This is where our Church is hurting. We fear the sacrifice. We are looking for comfort in a world where the comforters should be US! Let’s be bold, brothers and sisters. Embrace the sacrifice. There WILL BE a glorious good from all of it.

Take a Victory and a Blessing!

Alina

The Last Stretch: LOVE

1 John 4: 18-19 “There is no fear in love, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  We love because he loved us first.”


I have had the blessing of being prayed over by some super holy people. They were messengers for God in that moment. Giving me the direction I needed. One thing their prayers have all had in common is this: God loves us. So deeply. I can never hear it enough.

We have such a confusing view of love in our world. We each have our own misunderstanding of the word. Personally, I struggle with feeling like I constantly need to prove my worth to God and people around me (myself included). I cannot stop working. I cannot stop striving. I cannot stop achieving. Or else I’ll be unlovable. The moment I stop to smell the roses is the moment I feel exposed, lazy, unimportant… And so I keep going. And going. And going.

Analyze for a moment your own cynical interpretation of love that may have infiltrated your relationship with God. Is the love of God something you feel you need to earn? Is is something you take for granted? Is it something you feel will never satisfy you? Is His love something you’ll never be good enough for? Does His love feel controlling? Conditional?

Stop.

Breathe.

This is what TRUE LOVE is, my friends…

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:37-39

Oh, He LOVES us.

Once we understand the true definition of love, then we can freely give true love back. The more we open ourselves up to His love, the better love we can extend to God, our spouses, friends, children and families.

Today, write 5 things you love about God. Then choose one person in your life and write 5 things you love about them. Tell God and this person what you wrote. #TRUELoveWins

Take a Victory and a Blessing, my loves!

Alina

P.S. Jesus loves you ;-)

The Last Stretch: TIME

Time is a weird thing.

The speed of time seems to be fluid. There are moments we spend with family and friends laughing and enjoying each other in which it seems time passes by far too quickly. In contrast, I can remember sitting in classrooms as a child in which time seemed to drag and drag and pass painfully slowly. During Alina's first pregnancy, our anticipation to meet Lucia Noelle on her birthday was torture! The pregnancy felt like it lasted an eternity! Now I look at her, tall, brilliant, beautiful, articulate, 5 years old, and I think, where has the time gone?

Time is also an investment. any moment we spend doing something, is a moment in which we've chosen not to do anything else. In that choice we can observe so many things. A few observable things that stand out to me right now are personal maturity, how selfish or selfless we are, and what our priorities are (these are really all connected). The way we spend our time, the things we choose to make space for in our days truly reflect our interior life. What really matters to us? Look at how you spend every moment of your day for the answer. Asking that question and answering it objectively can be convicting and downright painful - and it should be.


Luke 10:38-42
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”


We often get caught up with a lot of busyness. The trap in it is that the busyness could be filled with theoretically very good things! However, a lot of times this busyness ultimately takes the form of chaos. I love the saying, "If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy." God obviously loves for us to make a positive impact on the world and to do amazing things with our lives - but not at the expense of time with him or family.

What if we made a conscious decision to make time with Jesus a central, non-negotiable part of every single day? What if everything else in our lives that we consider to be priorities, took 2nd place to this commitment? This type of commitment does not need to be overwhelming. Take baby steps. set your alarm 5 minutes earlier than before. Spend just 5 minutes with God in the morning before doing literally anything else. Allow this encounter with the divine to fuel the rest of your days activities.

What can you do in the course of that 5 minutes?
Talk to him. Say, "Good morning, Jesus."
Share with him the plans for your day including the things you're excited about, and the things you're anxious about. Offer it all up to him. Ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on you, your family, and your endeavors this day. You could also spend a moment cracking open your bible to receive the written word of God.

Time with God. It doesn't have to be complicated. It just needs to become THE priority.
Doing this every day can literally change your life.

Your brother on the journey,
Nick

The Last Stretch: TRUST

For this last week, we’ll be doing a series of relationship building exercises to get that spiritual blood pumping! As your official Lenten gym coach (says the girl who can barely do a push-up), YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Today we’ll be focusing on trust. Trust is tough. Trust brushes against our deepest wounds - even wounds we don’t know exist - and calls us to surrender. While some people do not deserve our trust and we rightfully should guard our hearts around them, there is Someone you can truly expose your heart to. Jesus.

This is a beautiful prayer I discovered just this year called the Litany of Trust. Even if you’re not Catholic, this prayer is amazing. As your exercise for today, pray this litany. Flex that trust muscle!


LITANY OF TRUST

From the belief that
I have to earn Your love
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security
that I have what it takes
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You
will leave me more destitute
Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of
Your words and promises
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against
childlike dependency on You
Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances
in accepting Your will
Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future
Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive
preoccupation with the past
Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking
in the present moment
Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love
and presence
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked
to give more than I have
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life
has no meaning or worth
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands
Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement
Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me
sustaining me, loving me
Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my
sins and failings, and transforms me
Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow
brings is an invitation to lean on You
Jesus, I trust in you.
That you are with me in my suffering
Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own,
will bear fruit in this life and the next
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan,
that You are present in Your Church
Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better
than anything else
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me and in
Your goodness always respond to me
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept
forgiveness and to forgive others
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength
I need for what is asked
Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God
Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one
Jesus, I trust in you.


Take a VICTORY and a BLESSING!

Alina

Our Lighthouse

Philippians 2:6-11 “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


Today is Palm Sunday. Today we lift high our Lord Jesus and proclaim him as our Savior. But by Friday… will we call out to “crucify Him?” How little humanity changes. How fickle are our hearts.

Time and time again, God proves Himself to me. He’s never let me down. He’s always taken my wrong turns and guided me safely to the right path. Being quite the worrier, God knows that I need LOTS of reminders and signs that He’s with me. But I still find myself forgetful of His goodness. I wax and wane like the tide, forgetting my identity in Him as His beloved daughter. Emotions, circumstances, and fears toss me in their grasp, pulling me from the safe embrace of my Heavenly Father. And soon enough, I can’t see shore. My fickle heart has left me stranded in the middle of a dark sea.

It’s when we feel like we’ve completely lost sight of Him that he steps out onto the stormy waters and reminds us of His power and great love.

Holy week has begun. Lent is almost over! Turn your gaze to our beloved Jesus. Correct your course back to Him. He’s there, waiting for you in any loneliness and confusion. He’s there in the daily duties and worries that drown you. He’s there in the happy moments that lift you to the skies. He’s there in the fear. He’s there in every moment. He’s our beaming lighthouse that bursts through the darkness to rescue us from our fickle hearts.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Take a Victory and a Blessing, friends!

Alina

Fear Is the Enemy

1 Peter 4:16

But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.


I have been passionately (albeit, imperfectly) in love with the Lord for most of my adult life. After all of these years he never ceases to prove his love and faithfulness to me. The frequent reminders are important due to my fickle human nature, and he knows it. I was in college when I encountered the person of Jesus Christ,   the love of the Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit. This encounter turned my life upside-down. Rather, my life had been upside-down, until this moment. Everything I was investing my time into, all of my studies, all of my relationships, I turned it all around.

From that point on, I have never looked back. Life has so much more meaning. Colors are more colorful. The joy and the peace I have experienced in my life, now on the proper path I know I was always destined for, and in relationship with this supreme being who created me, is beyond natural explanation. It is indeed, supernatural.

Considering all of the above, it amazes me that there are still moments that in the midst of certain people, in particular, people who are not believers, I am occasionally timid about my reason for living. I find myself at times timid to admit my Christianity... and my Catholicism... which is crazy!

I am a Christian because of a radical encounter with the God-man that left me utterly changed! I am Catholic because in my search for truth, it was the best decision I could come to with the evidence I found.

Why am I ever ashamed to declare the Good News, the Gospel, of what has happened in my life - of what I am - of how far God has brought me?!

Fear.

In the words of St. Augustine, "Fear is the enemy of love."

We are afraid of being ridiculed or looked down upon. Ultimately, we are afraid of martyrdom.

In the words of Jesus, "Be not afraid."

Your brother on the journey,
Nick

Coffee Talk with J.C.

John 8:54-58

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


Jesus is, without a doubt, THE coolest man that’s ever walked the face of the earth. I love all of his mic-drop moments littered throughout scripture, like the one from today’s reading. I mean, he was a cool cat. You just can’t help but love this guy! (Unless you’re a Pharisee #awkward).

Think of all the “coolest” people in your life. That sibling who makes you laugh and just gets you. That friend who listens unconditionally. That person whose love for God permeates their very being and inspires your faith. That mentor who believed in you no matter what. Just think about them for a moment…

Now, wrap them all into one person. This person is everything you love about your favorite people, only he’s perfect. He knows you better than you know yourself. Better than anyone has ever known you. And he is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. Can you imagine just having a coffee (or tea or a margarita) with Him?

Your spiritual exercise for today: Jesus is having a coffee with you outside in your backyard. It’s a beautiful Spring day and you guys are just hanging out! What’s he saying to you? What do you find yourself telling him? Close your eyes and take a moment to really envision this encounter…


Welcome back! So… You know what’s amazing? Encountering Him doesn’t have to be imaginary. You can spend time with Him now. He’s present in your heart and physically in any tabernacle around the world, just waiting to sit with you and hear from you.

So treat yourself to a coffee with Jesus today. Just make sure you pay for it (His currency is a little intense for coffee shops — Get it?? Because He paid for us with His blood? Okay. No more cheesy jokes. I promise!).

Take a Victory and a Blessing!

Alina


Turning Road Rage into Joy

Philippians 2:14-18 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


The verses above from Philippians were written by St. Paul while he was in prison. As he suffered, he rejoiced! And he encourages us to do the same. St. James says to consider trials joy! Joy?! I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly difficult to suffer well. I always try my best to be a cheerful and positive person, and I generally am. But when the real tests of life happen (when baby has a poop explosion right before leaving the house, cold and flu season, sub-zero weather, driving behind slow people — you know, the little annoyances that add up and add up), that’s when the grumble starts to rumble. If I’m not careful and mindfully filtering my thoughts through Jesus, I soon see the grumble pour out of me, rather than me pouring out to suffer well and serve others. Whether in deed or by example.

This life is not intended to be smooth and easy. It’s a grueling journey. And a lot of us have a steeeeeeeeeep mountain to climb before we reach Glory. The question is, are we using our time on this journey wisely? Rather than embracing the lessons before us, do we kick and fight like a stubborn donkey? Or are we humble and trusting with our master?

I want to be steadfast. I want to be a person who my kids and future grandkids can look back on and feel inspired by. The legacies we leave behind count on how we endure the trials right now. Today.

As great as it would feel to let off some steam on that really bad driver in the safety of your enclosed car… There might be some little ears listening and learning how to live out patience and love. As great as it would be to complain about your back problems for the fiftieth time to your co-worker, maybe it would be better to offer up the suffering in silence and ask about their life first. Try wearing a different lens as you suffer. Instead of dwelling on how much you hate this thing or that, think about how that uncomfortable or difficult thing could be a tool God is using to make you a brighter Child of the Light.

Suffer well through these last couple weeks of lent. You can DO IT!!

Take a Victory and a Blessing, my friend!

Alina

We Can't Hide

Psalm 139:1-18
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.


Leading up to the moment in which I truly repented of all past sins and failings, I remember the trepidation of what it would mean to make myself vulnerable, and confess my sins, repent, and follow Jesus. I also remember the immense relief I felt when I was met with mercy rather than a lightening bolt. I remember a peace I'd found which went beyond all understanding.

Throughout the journey though, this peace can get lost in the sound of the enemy's lies, or in the guilt of mistakes we continue to make.

God's love for you is so profound. There is no part of you, and nothing you have done, and nothing you could ever do, to deter his immense affection. While this is true for each of us, we still occasionally find ourselves having a tendency to keep parts of ourselves hidden from God.

Two points to consider:
1) He knows everything.
2) He loves us despite knowing everything.

We are safe in his arms. There is no place more safe than in his embrace.

What parts of our lives are we withholding from God? Today, rather than keeping him at arm's length, let's make a concerted effort to run towards him with reckless abandon.

Take a moment today to vocally thank God for his love and mercy.

Your brother on the journey,
Nick

Stop Stopping Yourself

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord”
- St. Augustine


What are you living for? Like, where do you focus your thoughts, energy, time and finances?
It's easy to see what our priorities are when we take inventory of the above questions.

I recently heard a talk by Father Larry Richards in which he invited his parishioners to all sign up for a holy hour in adoration, once a week, for one year. When he got push-back about that type of commitment level, he responded with, "Ok, what if I said that after one year of faithfully attending a holy hour every single week, I would personally pay each person who accomplished the goal, $1,000,000.00 dollars?" When the reaction to that proposition was a very different one, he asked, "then why can't you do that for Jesus?"

We so often spend our lives chasing things that ultimately only contribute chaos, restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, the list goes on. And then we die.

What if we just stopped? What if we made a choice to stop chasing that which cannot satisfy and cannot last? What if instead we spent our lives chasing God's plan for us? What if we spent our lives pursuing him?

Our lives would be filled with meaning, purpose and passion.

What if there really was a peace beyond all understanding that we could even experience here and now?
(Philippians 4)

What if we made that choice today?

What if we all did?

We would transform the world.

Don't be afraid. Take courage. Don't let anything get in the way of the journey God has laid out for you.

Your brother on the journey,
Nick

Pyromaniacs for Christ

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” - St. Joan of Arc

“I am not afraid…I was born to do this.” - St. Joan of Arc


Who are you? Really and truly. Before the world told you that you couldn’t be that writer or that musician or that teacher or whatever is was that made you come alive. Who are you really.

God knows. And He is championing for you, my friend. When everyone else around you doubts and despairs for you, HE is smiling at you with eyes full of love and belief. Because if “you are who God meant you to be, you will set the world on fire.” - St. Catherine of Siena)

God has equipped each of us with unique personalities, talents, passions, and circumstances. He’s ALSO given each of us a calling. A calling goes beyond just what we’re “good” at. For example, you could be really good at speaking, but that could manifest in so many different ways. Could you be called to use that talent as a teacher in Africa? Maybe you are called to be a Deacon with that gift. Or a politician. Or a catechist. Or a preacher.

So how do we know what our unique calling is?

A teen from a small town believed God was calling her to lead an army and rescue France. Sounds almost laughable, even today. But Joan of Arc, guided by the Holy Spirit, used her gifts to follow that lofty call. I’m sure she was terrified. And I’m sure she doubted herself. But God gave her the courage and to this day we admire her bravery and obedience.

Knowing God’s will for your life is as unique as the call itself. It could be given to you in an instant. Or it could be gradual, unfolding over years of effort and patience. The important thing is to pray and have faith that He will be faithful in revealing your calling. Please know that it’s never too late. Maybe your call is to teach the gospel to your granddaughter, who later grows up and converts an entire nation! I don’t know! But God does.

The question is… Do you have the courage to find out?

Take a Victory and a Blessing!

Alina

It's Time to Switch to Big Kid Food

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.”

Hebrews 6:1 “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don't need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.”


I have 3 beautiful children. They bring me great joy. And they drive me totally crazy. Nevertheless, It makes Nick and I so proud to see the people they’re growing into. It’s also thrilling that they’re almost all sleeping through the night after 5 YEARS!! Ahh, the joys of parenting. God is a proud papa of his Creation, His children, His Church (and, lucky Him, He doesn’t need sleep to keep from losing His marbles). Our perfect Father knows what each of us are capable of and He guides us along through each growing pain, just waiting to see when we’ll have the courage to take those first steps…

So, let’s take a moment to assess where we’re at in our growth charts as Christians:

Are you still a Spiritual Baby, clinging to the easy teachings and refusing to upgrade your soul to the next level? Still praying those half-hearted baby prayers and refusing to grow in intimacy with God? Can’t quite let go of the blankey called “mediocrity” in your Christian walk? Haven’t really made the Faith your own? For the sake of your soul, my friend, invest in your spiritual growth. Listen to inspiring podcasts, read something that ignites your soul on fire for the Truth. Begin the exciting quest to discovering the YOU God wants you to be! Don’t be afraid. It’s time to lose the diaper and jump on the big kid potty!

Or maybe you’re like a teenager in your maturity. You’ve got enough knowledge to be dangerous to the Enemy, but you just don’t want to truly let God use you to your fullest potential. Maybe it’s that final vice or bad habit you just don’t want to give up. Imagine the FREEDOM when you conquer it, though. Take that driver’s test and get yourself that set of wheels, brothers and sisters! This is a war! And it’s not doing you or the Kingdom any favors by keeping your light under a bushel!

Ok, perhaps you’re at the spiritual adult phase. Be careful here too! It may feel like you know it all and don’t need to keep growing, but that is just not true. The Enemy loves it when people become complacent. Even the greatest Saints kept learning and growing nearer to Christ. Don’t stop now! The moment we stop learning is the moment we backslide. Relationships are never stagnant. We’re either moving forward or falling backward.

Take those extra steps in whatever spiritual level you’re at today. Find material that inspires you to learn more about God and His Church! It’s time to start cutting your teeth on His Truth!

Take a Victory and a Blessing!

Alina

Where Are You Right Now?

"Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be." - St. Teresa of Avila


Where are you right now?
...Like... literally?
What is going on around you?
Stop reading this for a moment, and before continuing, just take in your surroundings. Be attentive to the noises, the colors, the conversations. Take it all in.

This moment is all you have right now. What if we operated from the premise, that God wants to use us at all times and in all places? If this moment is all you have, what are you doing with it? Are we present to the moment?

Today, let's together to make an intentional effort to be present to the moment. At work, with our spouse, with our kids, with our friends, let's be completely present to each moment as though no other moment existed or mattered. In each of these moments, let us be mindful of our need to be Christ to all we encounter.

Do not allow reflection on or even guilt of the past, or anxieties about the future, cloud your ability to be present here and now. Just for today, don't be anywhere but where you are. If you enjoy the way this impacts your moments, and perhaps your work, and perhaps your relationships, then maybe you can try it again tomorrow.

Your brother on the journey,
Nick

Mind Renewal 101

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”


I love coffee. And I love coffee shops. I also love my cousin. And Jesus. So imagine my delight whenever I get a chance to meet my cousin at a coffee shop and partake in pleasant conversations about Jesus and life, all while sipping a piping hot latte. It was on such an occasion that I shared with her an anxious thought I’d been having, to which she reminded me of these verses and shared an enlightening concept I’m about to share with you (Thank you, cousin Rachel).

Anxiety (or any other vice or sin) is a thing we humans all experience due to our broken world. But just because it comes naturally (easily), doesn’t mean we should just give in. If we succumb to our natural, baser instincts all the time - good heavens! - The world would be far worse than it is! Luckily, humanity was also given virtues that call us to be better. Especially if we are Christians. We have been doubly blessed with the aid of the Holy Spirit as we grow into our best selves. But it takes renewing of our earthly minds. We must constantly stay on top of our thought patterns, as we could so easily fall back into our old ways.

Renewing our minds is a very lovely concept. But how does one practically apply it? My cousin came up with this clever way of envisioning the renewal of our minds: Imagine two filters in our brains. We’ll call one the “Jesus Filter.” The other we’ll call the “Earthly Filter.” So, let’s take a thought and put it through these filters and see what the outcome is!

If we choose to put a thought into the Earthly Filter, we normally respond to that thought with less than holy reactions (anxiety, fear, lust, wrath, jealousy, selfishness, etc…). Trusting our Earthly Filter will generally not cause us to grow in virtue. And most likely will distract us from the Truth.

Now let’s put a thought into the Jesus Filter. You may be surprised to see a once very anxious thought get renewed into one of trust and peace. Christ gracefully renews our thoughts through His courage, peace, purity, contentment, charity, love, healing.

Now whenever I notice I’m feeling anxious, I pray for God to reset the filter to my thoughts. This is something we should do daily. Like in the morning, when you’re changing your COFFEE FILTER, ask God to change your THOUGHT FILTER too! 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” These thought patterns of anxiety, depression, fear, rage, jealousy, lust…whatever it is… Jesus wants to free you from it! And the amazing thing is… He actually can.

Take a Victory and a Blessing, mates!

Alina

The busy Game of LIFE

Luke 10:38-42 “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’“


Today was a little chaotic in our house. I’m sure you also experience days (or weeks, or years even!) that just seem like endless busyness! And not the productive kind of busyness (like planting a crop and you stand back and think: welp, that was fruitful! Lookie there!). I’m talking the pointlessly-treading-water kind that leaves you feeling empty. Bone-weary. And very, very grumpy! Whether you’re single and in college or married with kids or retired and fancy-free, the world has a way of hampering our spirits and biding us to soul-numbing “duty.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of Martha and Mary countless times! There might be a reason for that, though… We still don’t seem to get it! Jesus is with us now. In adoration. In tabernacles all over the world. In church. In the silence of our hearts and homes. We can commune with Him more freely than ever. But, like Martha, we feel this incessant need to busy ourselves with task after task after task.

Perhaps this is how we were taught to see our value and worth (if so, He adores you even if you can’t live up to your own standards)? Maybe it’s legitimately a season of extreme busyness so your family can survive (If so, He cares for the sparrows and infinitely more for your little nest)? Or maybe… just maybe… we busy ourselves to keep the call of Jesus at bay. If we busy ourselves enough, we won’t notice He’s aching to tell us something. To teach us His ways. To rekindle that fire. Are you are afraid that Holy Fire might consume you if you let Him breathe life into your heart again?

But can you imagine the freedom you’d experience if you let Him…

Take a moment, friends. Listen to the ache in your heart. Our minds and bodies and souls were designed for communion with our God. This imbalance we experience - pressed upon us by society - will exhaust each aspect of our beings if we don’t make space for sitting at Christ’s feet.

Take a Victory, a Blessing, and Take delight in the Lord this weekend!

Alina

Droughts, Trees, and Josh Groban CDs

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”


One gray November day back in 2005 (I was a senior in High School), my mom was driving me into town after school to get a winter coat. We were crossing a bridge and my dear old mum noticed I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. So she reminded me and I quickly put it on. And we kept cruising, probably listening to Dixie Chicks or Josh Groban.

Then I heard her voice of disbelief, “Oh my gosh…”

The world exploded around me. Instinct kicked in and I went into that stupid safety position taught at schools in case a tornado drops on the building. I just remember so much noise. And, oddly enough, the sensation of being on a trampoline (I found out later it was because our minivan had bounced end over end 3 times). When at last it ended, the air was thick with airbag smoke and debris. Mud and dirt covered everything. We couldn’t even see out the windshield, it was so decimated. Luckily, we were both coherent and, to our shock, realized we were upside down in a ditch.

That day we walked away from an accident that emergency workers said we should never have survived. The other driver (who also walked away relatively unscathed) had ran a stop sign on a country road. Both of our cars had been going around 60 mph.

As we climbed out of the ditch, wet and trembling, I found an insane urge to laugh. We were alive!

Whenever I start letting anxiety creep in and I feel the need to grasp for control, I remind myself of this event in my life. God was faithful in protecting us. I remember as a family we would pray together, and every night we would pray for protection over everyone the next day. He was faithful to our prayers. I literally walked over broken glass that day with NO SHOES ON and didn’t even receive a scratch. Some whiplash and PTSD, for sure! But that went away over time (just don’t say “Oh my gosh” around me).

We may lose control. But God never does. We should be like the tree that is planted by His waters. It knows that drought will come. As we all know difficulties in life will arise. But we have a choice. We can choose to bear good fruit despite the droughts that could come. We can generously give all of our love and energy to serve our families and His Kingdom. We can blossom because we have confidence He will provide! Or we can choose to “preserve” ourselves in fear of drought … or sickness or poverty or death. And never allow our truest selves to live.

Trust in His wisdom and His goodness. He is faithful.

Oh yes, and always wear your seatbelts.

Take a victory and a blessing, friends.

Alina

To Forgive? Or NOT to Forgive!

Matthew 18:21-22 “Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’”


I may appear seemingly pleasant and docile on the outside, friends. But if you enter into my Top-Trusted-Few, the lid eventually explodes. And boy, can it explode! I am what author Lysa Terkeurst refers to as an “emotional stuffer” (highly recommend her book “Unglued”). In an effort to maintain “peace” for all, my method of operation has always been to avoid conflict until I jolly well can’t contain it any more. It seemed to work while growing up at home. And then I got married! Poor, poor Nick. He comes from a line of Cubans who actually enjoy debating each other. And while I found his openness to verbal sparring refreshing (and rather charming), I also found myself being forced to actually conflict. Mainly with this man I vowed to live with for the rest of my life.

As you well know, forgiveness and mercy are not an easy part of Christianity. Especially when the hurt comes from the people we love most. The idiot cutting you off on the highway? You’ll forget about him in two (okay, maybe twenty) minutes. That less-than-kind thing your spouse did ten years ago? ooo, you bet we still are tempted to sputter out some fumes now and again.

When I find myself starting to relive past wounds that were already apologized for, I’ve learned to immediately bring those emotions to Jesus. When I fail to do so, it invites a dark foe in where Christ longs to be. All too quickly, white-hot rage begins to burn away any progress towards true forgiveness and love. When we choose to dredge up something that was already allegedly “forgiven” by us, its ugly corpse begins to breathe again. And then we’re back to square one. The enemy longs for division. Division in marriages, families, friendships, churches, nations. His aim is to blind us with bitterness. And bind our hearts with the trap of unforgiveness.

The relationships we value most will be under the fiercest attack from our foe. If you are struggling with learning to forgive someone in particular, take it to Jesus. Ask Him to give you His heart in this situation. We are called to live love as Christ does. How many times have we hurt our beautiful God? How many times does He pull us back to Him?

Countless.

Take a Victory and a blessing, my friends!

Alina




God Always Has A Plan

It is not insignificant that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Passover (the Last Supper). In fact, this is rich with meaning. To dive into it, we’ll turn to the twelfth chapter of the book of Exodus. In this passage God reaches out to Moses and Aaron to warn and prepare them for the final plague on Egypt. To help the Israelites escape the fate of losing their firstborn children, God gives them (through Moses and Aaron) a set of instructions. These instructions were straightforward and repeated several times:

1) They were to sacrifice a lamb without blemish;

2) Put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and lintels;

3) Eat the flesh of the slaughtered lamb and with it, unleavened bread.

Furthermore, God says: “This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” If this is ringing some bells for you, it is with good reason.

When comparing the Old and New Testaments, it’s easy to find yourself noticing parallel or related elements. This is because God is always at work. God always has a plan. In this case, God’s institution of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread seemed at the time to simply be about his saving the Israelites from the final plague when in reality it was part of something much bigger. He knew that one day He Himself would be the Lamb for sacrifice. He knew that He would one day be sitting in an upper room with eleven trusted friends, the first bishops, and a traitor. He knew that He would invite them to eat of His own flesh and to drink of His own blood. He knew that He would command those men to share His Body and Blood with all believers… doing so as a remembrance, a memorial of that moment forever.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54-56)

Thank You Jesus, for wanting to win our hearts, to save and sanctify us such that You would enter the world You created by taking on flesh and offering Yourself to us so intimately in the Eucharist. Help us to never take You for granted and to never approach Your altar or tabernacle ignorant of Your presence.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick De La Torre