1,826

Praise of Thanksgiving for every breath and every moment these past five years. 

1826 days.

Looking in the mirror every morning and evening, more than 3600 times, seeing what cancer took. Some days I have moments of normalcy where I forget what this earth handed me to deal with. Wearing a prosthetic allows others to not think about it since everything “looks” normal when they see me. Then a tightness or pain, in the breast that no longer exists, brings me back to reality. How can there be a phantom pain five years later. But there is. Pain as if being stabbed. Pain that gets your attention. It never leaves me. A reminder of my loss. My view in the mirror some days reminds me of the darkness that was cut out of me. Thankfully, most days, the scar reminds me of a God that moved mountains for me because of His great love. His love is more powerful than any darkness in our lives.

He brought me through my battle.
He gives me life to enjoy, even with battle scars and all my other flaws.
My missing breast doesn’t define me, it refined me in the grace Jesus provides me.

We all have challenges in life. It could be addiction, unemployment, loneliness, stress, or chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer recurrences or MS. Our attitude through our challenges defines us. We are never alone through these stages of life. We always have a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. Just this week I led children in a prayerful meditation. Guiding them to spend time with Jesus in their mind’s eye. Seeing Jesus sitting under a tree, calling us to spend time with Him. Gently listening to our every need. Holding our hand and carrying our burdens right beside us.

Praise to God for giving me the blessing of reaching my 5 year mark! Looking forward to celebrating the 10 year, 15 year, 20 year and so many more.
God is Good! All the Time!
Celebrate today! Celebrate tomorrow! Celebrate Everyday!

Psalm 68:20-21 Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation. God is our saving God for us; the Lord, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.

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Daily Prompt: Cake

via Daily Prompt: Cake

What is cake to you?

To me the question should be…Who is cake to you?

My daughter is Cake. She always has been. It was derived from Sweetie Cake, Babycake, Cakiebaby, etc… what stuck was Cake or Cakie. In fact when I call her by her given name she still thinks she is in trouble…and she is over 25!

Cake is kind, giving, caring, compassionate, and passionate. She loves life. She loves to meet people, hike, ski and blog. Cake is a high school social studies teacher and is passionate about sparking in her students a love of learning.

She is sweeter than any bakery cake and is more beautiful than a wedding cake.

Cake is a person to me…my favorite daughter…my sweet Cakie.

Perfectly us, four increases to five!

Today my family expands! ZachKarmen
Our son, Zachary is marrying Karmen!
The joy and love we feel is real…strong…and true.

As parents we have so many hopes, dreams, and desires for our children, yet ultimately the most important one is; we want them to be truly happy and live faith-filled lives. Both our children, Jaclyn and Zachary, have found joy in life with their careers and friends. Now to watch Zach and Karmen grow individually and as a couple these past two years, has been a true blessing for our family.

Our family of four is a typical close, in your business (sometimes), Italian family. We love passionately, care deeply and have been known to have arguments occasionally (infrequently now, but those teen years…Yikes!). We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly us.

I wonder if we our family was a shock to kind, calm, and quiet Karmen, who’s family life and culture is different. Which is true for each one of us comes from a unique and special family. Each of us bring with us a lot of family “stuff”, it makes us who we are. Melding their new lives together, I trust the Lord to  guide Zach and Karmen, to create their own ‘perfectly theirs’ family.

I knew Zachary’s heart was taken the first time I met Karmen. We met Zachary and Karmen at the Museum of Science and Industry the day after Thanksgiving 2013. Watching Zach talk with her, hold her hand, and treat her like the incredible woman she is…was it.

I love Zachary with her. He was comfortable, confident and loving…he was completely himself. I love who Zach is with Karmen, true to himself.

Then in June of 2014 in Venice, Italy on our family vacation Zach talked non-stop about why he loved her and how he missed seeing her. He was head over heels in love, I was no longer the most important woman in my baby’s heart and I was so happy to share his heart for this reason. Seeing how happy he was made this transition much less painful, because you see, he is my baby…the one I held when he was sick or hurting. Yet, now I see the man that the Lord created and am so grateful He allowed me to be part of Zach’s life.

So…
As they begin their marriage, I have to reflect on a life of marriage and the graces received (and lessons learned) through my 32 years and 2 children with my husband, Kevin. This will not be and cannot be a comprehensive guide to marriage, just my reflections as thoughts come to me.

Begin each day with a prayer of praise for all that you have been blessed with.
Put each other before yourself in life, honor and cherish every breath together.
Never lose yourself, be individuals who respect each other.
Always hold hands and snuggle all the time, especially during movies.
Share dinner together, even if it happens to be leftovers or cereal.
Take time to spend alone together.
Make birthdays and your anniversary special each year.
Listen more than you talk.
Forgive easily, especially when it is not easy.
Cheer each other in good times and cling to each other in storms.
Look for rainbows and stop to watch sunsets.
Make financial decisions together and never hide purchases from each other.
The mountains are calling you, spend time breathing in the clean, pure air of God’s beauty.
Stay close to family, they are your biggest supporters and loyal confidants.
Remember you are joined and entwined together as three cords, keeping God in the center will keep you strong.
Pray each night for each other and with each other.
Love always.

All good heart-felt advice from me is solid, I still giggle at my sister Toni’s great marriage advice of “always fight naked and no one will ever run out of the house.”

And know that all our family looking down upon us are smiling and guiding you…and know deep in your hearts that Kevin and I pray for you both and your union.

Welcome to this crazy, passionate, loving family Karmen…we love you!

#KarmenandZach
#ZachandKarmen
#marriage #love #happiness

Grace embraced through the young, pure love and happiness of this day as we welcome Karmen to our family through the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails   1 Cor 13:7

The Power of a Touch

Do we take for granted the hug we receive as we leave the house or holding hands as we walk down the street?Touch

How does touch effect our lives? Do we even notice when someone touches our shoulder or brushes our arm when walking past us? We definitely would notice a touch if we had not had human contact in weeks. We would be keenly aware of the loss of it and excitedly healed when we were able to feel it again.

Those working with the homeless, home-bound or so called “undesirable” of society would tell you a touch of another is very missed. There is something about human interaction that we are made for.

Jesus understood this. My favorite gospel story always has been found in Mark 5. A crowd is pressing against Jesus form all around. His disciples are trying to protect and move him along to Jairus’ home where Jairus’ daughter is sick. Jesus stops abruptly. He felt a power leave him, as if someone had robbed him of his strength. Without him asking God to heal someone, a simple touch healed. Just a touch of His cloak, she did not even get to touch His skin. His apostles think Jesus is crazy, tons of people are touching Him trying to get His attention. But Jesus felt one powerful touch from a woman who had been without human contact for years because of her suffering. How much more powerful would it have been if she reached out and actually touched the leg of Jesus?

A simple touch healed. Do we possess a power to heal with a touch also?

Absolutely!

Be aware of those around you, there are many people that live alone, away from family. It may be weeks since they were embraced or kissed on the cheek…or even high-fived someone. Our children whom live away, our parents whom we have not seen in a while, neighbors who are widowed, co-workers whom are single, those in nursing homes and homeless shelters…and those who are societies lost. We must begin to “see” them and to “heal” them with a simple touch.

Statistics show children whom are not shown affection or are without physical contact at young ages suffer emotionally and intellectually. Our touch is powerful. It can heal and it can help our growth. Parents would never even think about not rocking a child and placing their tiny hands into ours. There is no image more beautiful than a mother snuggling with their child against their chest. Feeling their tiny heart beat and seeing them sleep against the rising and falling of your body’s breath. It can be healing for mothers as well, to know their child is safe and taken care of. Each person needs to see others as they do their own. We are all family…we belong to each other…we are connected in our humanness…we must share in our ability to help each other by a simply hand on a shoulder or embrace.

Yet when we refuse our brothers and sisters in this world, in not reaching out, we weaken ourselves as well as others.FreeHugs

Embrace each other, laugh together, hug one another…not just family, not just those who are nearby, embrace everyone. It doesn’t matter their status in society, or their nationality, or the color of their skin, or their political affiliations…or anything. The only thing that matters is there is someone in the crowd that is so desperate they are crawling on the dirty, dusty ground to reach out to you and just touch a corner of your clothes.

A touch can give someone peace and healing today …”go in peace and be healed.”

Grace embraced through touch…
“If I just touch his clothes, I will get well. She touched his cloak….and she had the feeling inside herself that she was healed of her trouble.” Mark 5:28-29

#thepoweroftouch
#gospelofmark
#kindnessmatters
#lovematters

 

 

The Priority of Faith

“It was revealed this week that, for the first time in its history, Harvard University, which had been founded for religious purposes … has admitted a freshman class in which atheists and agnostics outnumber professed Christians and Jews.”

Be Brace

Did that make you pause and read it again? Did it make you sad, mad or upset? I had all those emotions when I read it for the first time.

This statement has been heavily weighing on my heart since I read it on Thursday, September 18th in an article by Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles. Incoming freshman, not graduating seniors from college. Incoming freshman, those sons and daughter that are leaving our homes for the first time to spread their wings as young adults. Incoming freshman, fresh from our homes where they should have received a foundation of faith.

I’m sure the rest of Bishop’s article was also informative and enlightening, but I still can’t get past the first sentence. Every day since September 18th, when I read those words, I ask myself, what can I do better. I have worked in Faith Formation for 14 years, these atheists and agnostics could have been in homes of families I ministered too. This is not a Catholic thing, it’s a faith thing…or a lack of faith thing.

I have to be part of the solution. I have to help parents provide the tools to foster faith. No matter how I plan and execute faith formation, the 30 hours a year I see the children is not enough to form their faith. As parents we have to model and mentor. We have to set rituals and traditions. We work hard to form our children’s social and moral characteristics. We, together, need to mold their souls. Those souls are yearning for God, where they belong!

Our days of forming our children pass quickly. They grow, it seems, over night. We blink and they are moving out and leaving us, which causes parents to think of what did we not pass on to them.

Faith…at least basic understanding of the Golden Rule, “do unto others they way you want them to do unto you” if practiced daily shows children the Golden Rule in action. We need to bring God into our homes and into our daily lives. No…let me correct that. God is already in our homes and daily lives. We need to open our hearts and recognize His work in our lives. He wants us to know Him and He wants to be in relationship with us.

How do we change that statistic?
How do we take responsibility for making the world a more peaceful place?
How do we instill in our children that God, Allah, I Am, Yahweh, whatever your tradition calls Him, freely give us LOVE?

First we can pray!
I have seen the power of prayer in my own life and in my work. Prayer makes a difference! Any type of prayer and any time for prayer works…just pray.

We can live as examples. Living our lives with our brothers and sisters in peace, compassion, and mercy shows our youth how they should live.

Have a missionary heart. As we encounter people on the streets, in restaurants, at work and in our own neighborhood, share the joy of faith with them. Reach out to those in need and give of your time, give of your talents, and give of your treasure, you will never regret a moment you spent helping others.

Love. Love is the foundation for everything. Share Love. Speak of Love. Show Love. Be Love. priority

I created ways to spread the Love of Christ and promote faith online. Check out my social avenues:
https://www.facebook.com/sjcyc
https://twitter.com/youthsjc

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

I see God’s grace and mission for me…to help others, especially the families I minister to, to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Chance encounter or Divine Intervention

When something happens do you chalk it up to chance? We say “What are the chances of that happening to me?” or “I’ve got a pretty good chance of that  happening today.”

Chance, according to Google, is “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.”

Maybe it’s not our “obvious design” but every occurrence is an ultimate design.

I don’t believe in luck or chance. I believe in divine intervention. Through life’s experiences I have come to believe everything happens for a reason. Even terrible tragedies and loss happen so that we can learn and grow. We are all moving through this life to reach the next life with our Lord Jesus and each step we take is His divine plan.

I was once asked by a teen at a youth ministry meeting “how can it be God’s plan when we have free will”. I reflected for a moment and then attempted to explain it as if your parent was sitting on a roof top watching you drive up. That parent can see all the different paths you can choose to get home and they can see that some of them are not safe. They see the path you are on will be a collision with another car and although they are screaming at the top of their lung for you to turn at the next street you can’t hear or you are choosing not to hear. Then someone steps into the street to cross the road and you slow and avoid two accidents, hitting the walker and the collision that was ahead. God sees all the different paths in front of us, some of the paths lead to Him, some of them do not. As we choose a path, he shifts to other paths and again places paths that lead to Him and paths that don’t. He never tires of leading us on the right path. He is the father in the prodigal son story; waiting, watching and praying for our return through all the free will choices we make.

I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I know He places obstacles in my path for His purpose. I have learned to trust in His movements through my life.

His presence was glaringly visible yesterday.

As I sat through a workshop at the beautiful campus of St Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein I sat with and meet six amazing women ministering in the life of the church. Each one had a story to tell of their journey listening to God’s voice in their life. The voice that led them to bible studies, RCIA, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless and the voice that led them into a new family at their parishes. They were enlightening stories of challenges and hope…and of JOY! I love sharing faith with such inspiring, strong women. The six of them sitting with me was God’s divine plan. But that is not the end of the story.

During our last break of the day, one of these women asked me a simple question about my water bottle.

You see, I carry every day a 24 oz Tervis water bottle with a pink ribbon design on it. I have two of them that were given as gifts to me during treatment so that I would always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A habit I continue everyday. I’m a pretty routine person – each night I place the water bottle without the lid in the freezer half full. In the morning, I fill up the rest of the bottle with cold water…and it keeps cold until about 2:00 pm. (I prefer drinking cold water and ice cubes melt too quickly!) Yesterday was no different. I carried my water bottle into the workshop, little did I know it would spark a connection.

I have learned to not bring up the subject that I am thriving after breast cancer…I’ve seen too many people change their demeanor when they hear that, so I just allow it to come up organically if it is meant to. And yesterday it was meant to…God’s intervention.

This beautiful, kind, gentle woman asked ever so sweetly “pink ribbon…is that you?” I said yes and she said, I need to find one of those bottle for lymphoma, and I responded “you?” as she said “yes”.

My heart fluttered…I knew why I sat at that table, God needed us to meet…what a blessing it turned into.

After the workshop ended, we picked up our conversation. She had lymphoma years ago in her neck, arm pits, chest and abdomen (almost everywhere we have lymph nodes!)…and she bravely fought it into remission. Yet two months ago she explained that it had returned in her neck. She was beginning treatment on Monday. Monday is her mother’s birthday and she is an only child. Her eyes told of her fear of this vicious disease that lies within her. She asked if I would be back at a workshop in October and I said “no, but would see her in November”. Her eyes softened as she said “I’ll be in my month hospital stay in November.” Although the words did not come out of her mouth, I heard her crying for connection. I asked if I could stay in touch with her, which softened both of our faces…there was the connection she was searching for. Maybe it was a relief of someone who understands the fear of cancer or someone to cry with. I am blessed to do both or either.

She gave me her cell and email as we hugged goodbye. I don’t know what plans God has for this relationship, but I do know that He created a connection that I am called to nuture. My thoughts throughout today have been on prayers to releave her anxieties and put her complete trust in the Lord. I texted her today the words I remember a dear friend sent to me before my first treatment: “don’t tell your God how big your mountain is…tell you mountain how big your God is”

God’s Divine Intervention…watch for it…it presents itself in many places throughout your day…see them and embrace them

Divine Intervention

Thank you Lord the the grace of a new friendship during storms in her life. Help the sun and Son to break through her darkness. If I can be a small drop of grace in her life, I am honored to do so. Thank you for the grace of divine intervention in my life and the presence to see your hand within it.

Conversations with the Almighty

Prayer is simply talking to God.
Prayer can take many shapes. It is just a conversation with God.
No small task here you say…speaking with the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth.
I know many people think, why would he want to talk with me? I’m a sinner, I have done so many things wrong.
But God is merciful and is like your parents…no matter what you do or say, their arms are always open.

I was once at a presentation and the speaker has a beautiful image of the Prodigal Son. It was the reading at church and after service the mother asked her daughter what do you think about the story of the son that ran away from home and the father that welcomed him back. She beautifully said “that father waited every day at the end of the driveway so of course he was happy when the day came that he saw his son.” We often look at the story from one of the brother’s perspective. But the parent was unfailing in love for his child. He never lost hope and he always stood patiently waiting.

God knows our hearts, he hears our prayers. Each and everyone of us are precious to him, just as each of our children are precious to us. God is our Father, the ultimate parent. He yearns for each of His children to come home to him in prayer. He waits.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the Our Father. The structure of the prayer is adoration, forgiveness and humility to his will for us. We can use his words or our own, God does not care. He just wants to talk with us.

Find a quiet space, make a sacred ritual.

Each morning I drive to work and treasure the 50 minute drive (or longer in construction season). The time doesn’t bother me because it is sacred time. This is my sacred time. A time of reflection of the blessings in my life. I time to spontaneous talk with God and to pray my rosary and divine chaplet. My fingers naturally find their rhythm in a familiar pattern on a rosary my sister brought home from the Vatican in 1988. Those beads have heard alot of praise, sorrow and petitions. Prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance and protection for my family and friends consume my thoughts. A few minutes is spent talking with my daughter as we both start our day with a commute. My time with God is sprinkled with reminders of who I am praying for…my daughter and son (and now my future daughter-in-law), the blessings of my life.

We can get easily distracted in the world around us, so turn off the radio, tv, music…wherever you are; start with silence. Developing a ritual prayer life takes patience and trust. God is with us, listening, watching and guiding, even when we don’t feel His presence.

Prayer is talking with God. It’s a conversation. prayer
Effective conversations are two ways.
Make sure your prayer time includs listening.
We need to be aware of His presence in our every day.
Listen, watch and you will see Him.
He is present in the pauses throughout the day.
Thank him for all the things that pass your way.
Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the close parking spot or for safe travel.
Say a prayer of gratitude for the ability to speak to loved ones and for the job you have (even if it’s not your dream job).
Say a prayer of petition and bring forth the needs for others and yourself.
God is omnipotent, He can take it all in. He love you so much and is waiting for your return to prayer.